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Stuart Vyse

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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.



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