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Spin Doctors: A Model and an Experimental Investigation of Vague Disclosure


  • Marvin Deversi
  • Alessandro Ispano
  • Peter Schwardmann


Unfavorable news are often delivered under the disguise of vagueness. But are people sufficiently naive to be fooled by such positive spin? We use a theoretical model and a laboratory experiment to study the strategic use of vagueness in a voluntary disclosure game. Consider a sender who aims at inflating a receiver’s estimate of her type and who may disclose any interval that contains her actual type. Theory predicts that when facing a possibly naive receiver, the sender discloses an interval that separates her from worse types but is upwardly vague. Senders in the experiment adopt this strategy and some (naive) receivers are systematically misled by it. Imposing precise disclosure leads to less, but more easily interpretable, disclosure. Both theory and experimental data further suggest that imposing precision improves overall information transmission and is especially beneficial to naive receivers. Our results have implications for the rules that govern the disclosure of quality-relevant information by firms, the disclosure of research findings by scientists, and testimonies in a court of law.

Suggested Citation

  • Marvin Deversi & Alessandro Ispano & Peter Schwardmann, 2018. "Spin Doctors: A Model and an Experimental Investigation of Vague Disclosure," CESifo Working Paper Series 7244, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_7244

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abel Brodeur & Mathias Lé & Marc Sangnier & Yanos Zylberberg, 2016. "Star Wars: The Empirics Strike Back," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 1-32, January.
    2. Abel Brodeur & Mathias Lé & Marc Sangnier & Yanos Zylberberg, 2016. "Star Wars: The Empirics Strike Back," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 1-32, January.
    3. Hagenbach, Jeanne & Perez-Richet, Eduardo, 2018. "Communication with evidence in the lab," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 139-165.
    4. Daylian M. Cain & George Loewenstein & Don A. Moore, 2005. "The Dirt on Coming Clean: Perverse Effects of Disclosing Conflicts of Interest," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-25, January.
    5. Alessandro Ispano & Peter Schwardmann, 2018. "Competition over Cursed Consumers," CESifo Working Paper Series 7046, CESifo.
    6. Jennifer Brown & Tanjim Hossain & John Morgan, 2010. "Shrouded Attributes and Information Suppression: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 859-876.
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    Cited by:

    1. Johannes Moser, 2019. "Hypothetical thinking and the winner’s curse: an experimental investigation," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 87(1), pages 17-56, July.
    2. Li, Ying Xue & Schipper, Burkhard C., 2020. "Strategic reasoning in persuasion games: An experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 329-367.

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    More about this item


    communication; naivete; flexibility; regulation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • D04 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Policy: Formulation; Implementation; Evaluation

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