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False Modesty: When Disclosing Good News Looks Bad

  • Rick Harbaugh

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

  • Theodore To

    (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Is it always wise to disclose good news? We find that the worst sender with good news has the most incentive to disclose it, so reporting good news can paradoxically make the sender look bad. If the good news is attainable by sufficiently mediocre types, or if the sender is already expected to be of a relatively high type, withholding good news is an equilibrium. Since the sender has a legitimate fear of looking too anxious to reveal good news, having a third party disclose the news, or mandating that the sender disclose the news, can help the sender. The predictions are tested by examining when economics faculty at different institutions use titles such as "Dr" and "Professor" in voicemail greetings and course syllabi.

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Paper provided by Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in its series Working Papers with number 2005-05.

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Date of creation: 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2005-05
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