The present study tested the idea that the amount of effort expended in task performance is a function of the amount of uncertainty in one's ability level the resulting outcomes are expected to reduce. Two determinants of expected uncertainty reduction were manipulated: prior uncertainty about one's ability level and the diagnosticity of the task. Subjects first performed an initial task and then received fictitious feedback to manipulate their prior uncertainty. To induce low uncertainty, the feedback implied that the subjects are highly likely to have either low, intermediate, or a high level of ability. To induce high uncertainty, the feedback implied that the various ability levels were equally probable. Subjects then performed a task whose perceived diagnosticity regarding the ability under consideration was varied. As expected, subjects who were highly uncertain about their ability level performed better than subjects who were relatively certain they possessed either low, intermediate, or a high level of ability. Performance also improved with task diagnosticity, and the effect of task diagnosticity on performance was more pronounced when prior uncertainty was high than when it was low. Past research on the relationship between prior feedback and subsequent performance was discussed in light of the present results and a self-assessment model of achievement behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science