Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Aaron Wichman (Director), Dr. Pitt Derryberry, Dr. Andrew Mienaltowski

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The purpose of these two studies was to examine two factors that may influence the effects of uncertainty on information processing. The first factor is the positioning of uncertainty relative to a target of judgment, and how this affects people’s judgment processing. The second factor had to do with the degree to which uncertainty signals active goal conflict or not. In the first study, 145 participants with a mean age of 19.51 were induced with uncertainty either before or after information about the target accused of illegal behavior. The results demonstrated that uncertainty before information produced higher guilt judgments of the target and uncertainty after information produced lower guilt judgments towards the target, but only in a subset of conditions. The second study, with 121 participants and a mean age was 19.58, primed participants with one of two different goals. It then induced uncertainty threat which either was or was not relevant to the primed goal, and asked participants to make judgments based on information given about the target as in Study 1. The results revealed that for women, but not for men, uncertainty threat produced stronger guilt judgments when the uncertainty was relevant to the primed goal. Together, these results indicate that both the positioning and goal relevance of uncertainty may impact its effect on information processing.


Personality and Social Contexts | Social Psychology