Motivated reasoning and verbal vs. numerical probability assessment: Evidence from an accounting context
A perplexing yet persistent empirical finding is that individuals assess probabilities in words and in numbers nearly equivalently, and theorists have called for future research to search for factors that cause differences. This study uses an accounting context in which individuals are commonly motivated to reach preferred (rather than accurate) conclusions. Within this context, I predict new differences between verbal and numerical probability assessments, as follows: first, individuals will justify an optimistic verbal assessment (e.g., somewhat possible) by retaining the option of re-defining it, in case of negative outcomes, as though the phrase really means something different, and, for that matter, means more things. This re-definition will maintain some connection to the original meaning of the phrase, but de-emphasized relative to the new meaning. Second, based on this behavior, I also predict individuals' verbal probability assessments to be (1) more biased and yet (2) perceived as more justifiable than their numerical assessments. I find supportive evidence in an experiment designed to test the hypotheses. This study contributes to motivated reasoning and probability assessment theories (1) with new evidence of how individuals can word-smith in multiple attributes of a phrase to justify reaching a preferred conclusion, and (2) with new, reliable differences between verbal and numerical probability assessments. This study has important theoretical and practical implications relevant to organizational contexts in which people assess the likelihoods of uncertainties in words or numbers, and with motivations to reach a preferred conclusion.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Volume (Year): 108 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (March)
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/obhdp|
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Thomas S. Wallsten & David V. Budescu & Rami Zwick, 1993. "Comparing the Calibration and Coherence of Numerical and Verbal Probability Judgments," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(2), pages 176-190, February.
- Libby, Robert & Bloomfield, Robert & Nelson, Mark W., 2002. "Experimental research in financial accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 775-810, November.
- Hsee, Christopher K., 1996. "Elastic Justification: How Unjustifiable Factors Influence Judgments," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 122-129, April.
- Hamm, Robert M., 1991. "Selection of verbal probabilities: A solution for some problems of verbal probability expression," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 193-223, April.
- Erev, Ido & Cohen, Brent L., 1990. "Verbal versus numerical probabilities: Efficiency, biases, and the preference paradox," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 1-18, February.
- Teigen, Karl Halvor & Brun, Wibecke, 1999. "The Directionality of Verbal Probability Expressions: Effects on Decisions, Predictions, and Probabilistic Reasoning, , , ," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 155-190, November.
- Schweitzer, Maurice E & Hsee, Christopher K, 2002. "Stretching the Truth: Elastic Justification and Motivated Communication of Uncertain Information," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 185-201, September.
- Budescu, David V. & Wallsten, Thomas S., 1985. "Consistency in interpretation of probabilistic phrases," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 391-405, December.
- Hershey, John C. & Baron, Jonathan, 1992. "Judgment by outcomes: When is it justified?," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 89-93, October.
- Budescu, David V. & Wallsten, Thomas S., 1990. "Dyadic decisions with numerical and verbal probabilities," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 240-263, August.
- Hershey, John C. & Baron, Jonathan, 1995. "Judgment by Outcomes: When Is It Warranted?," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 127-126, April.
- Rich, J. S. & Solomon, I. & Trotman, K. T., 1997. "The audit review process: A characterization from the persuasion perspective," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 481-505, July.
- Womack, Kent L, 1996. " Do Brokerage Analysts' Recommendations Have Investment Value?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(1), pages 137-167, March.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:108:y:2009:i:2:p:330-341. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamier, Wendy)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.