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Stretching the Truth: Elastic Justification and Motivated Communication of Uncertain Information

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Abstract

Although both cognitive and motivational factors can influence the communication of uncertain information, most of the work investigating the communication of uncertainty has focused on cognitive factors. In this article, we demonstrate that motivational factors influence the communication of private, uncertain information and we describe the relationship between elasticity (i.e. uncertainty and vagueness) and motivated communication. We report results from four experiments that demonstrate that motivated communication is not purely opportunistic. The values people report are constrained by the elasticity of private information even when the costs and benefits of misrepresenting information are held constant. Perceptions of justifiability mediate the relationship between elasticity and motivated communication, and we explain our results in terms of the self-justification process.

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Correspondence to Maurice E. Schweitzer.

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Schweitzer, M.E., Hsee, C.K. Stretching the Truth: Elastic Justification and Motivated Communication of Uncertain Information. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 25, 185–201 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020647814263

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