Humans constantly seek meaning in their daily work lives. Across 3 studies (N = 395), the role of uncertainty in the meaning experienced through work was investigated. In Study 1, a workplace environment was simulated through an effortful repetitive task of finding combinations of letters on sheets of papers, incentivized with a declining payment schedule (Ariely, Kamenica, & Prelec, 2008). Participants completed a higher number of sheets when their work was fully acknowledged and when there was probabilistic uncertainty in acknowledgement, compared to when there was no acknowledgement. Study 2 demonstrated that participants who simply read a description of the conditions in Study 1 judge uncertainty differently. Finally, to test whether college students perceive the consequences of uncertainty in a manner similar to workers, Study 3 asked Connecticut College students to imagine themselves in a class with a professor who acknowledges student work to varying degrees; results approached statistical significance in replicating Study 1. Contrary to intuitive hypotheses, the current findings suggest that under some circumstances, uncertainty may actually increase productivity in the workplace.
Mawla, Ishtiaq, "Uncertainty and Meaning in the Workplace" (2014). Psychology Honors Papers. 46.
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