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False Modesty: When Disclosing Good News Looks Bad

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Listed:
  • Rick Harbaugh

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

  • Theodore To

    (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Rick Harbaugh & Theodore To, 2005. "False Modesty: When Disclosing Good News Looks Bad," Working Papers 2005-05, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2005-05
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    2. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Social image concerns and prosocial behavior: Field evidence from a nonlinear incentive scheme," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 225-237, November.
    3. Yi Qian & Qiang Gong & Yuxin Chen, 2015. "Untangling Searchable and Experiential Quality Responses to Counterfeits," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 34(4), pages 522-538, July.
    4. Rick Harbaugh & John W. Maxwell & Beatrice Roussillon, 2006. "The Groucho Effect of Uncertain Standards," Working Papers 2006-09, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    5. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario & Slonim, Robert, 2009. "Will There Be Blood? Incentives and Substitution Effects in Pro-social Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 4567, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Cartwright, Edward & Patel, Amrish, 2013. "How category reporting can improve fundraising," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 73-90.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    disclosure; persuasion; communication; verifiable message; countersignaling; private receiver information;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory

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