Reducing ambiguity in the psychological understanding of ambiguity avoidance

based on reviews by Leyla Loued-Khenissi and Hayley Jach
A recommendation of:

Revisiting the psychological sources of ambiguity avoidance: Replication and extensions of Curley, Yates, and Abrams (1986)

Submitted: 15 February 2022, Recommended: 06 June 2022


A considerable body of research in behavioural economics has established the existence of ambiguity avoidance: the tendency for people, when given a choice between two options, to choose the option for which there is greater certainty about the probabilities of certain outcomes occurring. In a seminal study, Curley, Yates, and Abrams (1986) explored potential psychological explanations of ambiguity avoidance, contrasting five hypotheses: hostile nature (the anticipation that more ambiguous options are biased against oneself), other-evaluation (the anticipation that one’s decision will be evaluated by others), self-evaluation (the anticipation that one's decision will be self-evaluated in the future), forced-choice (in which the less ambiguous option is selected only when all other considerations are equal), and a more general uncertainty avoidance associated with risk aversion. The results favoured other-evaluation as the most promising explanation, with implications in the following decades for research in social psychology, judgment and decision making, behavioural economics, consumer behaviour, and cognitive psychology.
In the current study, Yiu and Feldman (2022) plan to revisit the psychological basis of ambiguity avoidance in a large online sample through a replication of key studies from Curley et al. (1986), including extensions to increase methodological rigour and to explore the relationship between ambiguity avoidance and hostility bias, anticipated future regret, and post-choice social judgment from others, as well as trait measures of risk tolerance and ambiguity tolerance.
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over one round of in-depth review. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol:
Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA. 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
1. Curley, S. P., Yates, J. F. & Abrams, R. A. (1986). Psychological sources of ambiguity avoidance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 38, 230-256.
2. Yiu, S. Y. & Feldman, G. (2022). Revisiting the psychological sources of ambiguity avoidance: 
Replication and extensions of Curley, Yates, and Abrams (1986), in principle acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports.
Cite this recommendation as:
Chris Chambers (2022) Reducing ambiguity in the psychological understanding of ambiguity avoidance. Peer Community in Registered Reports, .

Evaluation round #1

DOI or URL of the report:

Author's Reply, 17 Jun 2022

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Revised manuscript:

All revised materials uploaded to:, updated manuscript under sub-directory "PCIRR Stage 1\PCI-RR submission following R&R"

Decision by , 09 Apr 2022

Two expert reviewers have now evaluated the Stage 1 manuscript. As you will see, both are positive about your submission, which already comes close to meeting the Stage 1 criteria. There are however, a variety of issues to address concerning clarification of concepts, inclusion of additional methodological details (including in vital areas such as exclusion criteria), validity of specific design components, and justification of analytic decisions (including moderator variables). Provided you are able to address all points comprehensively in a revision and response, Stage 1 in-principle acceptance should be forthcoming without requiring further in-depth review.

Reviewed by , 07 Apr 2022



This study proposes to replicate an experiment from 1986 that provided empirical evidence in support of motivations underlying ambiguity aversion, a putatively “irrational” bias in decision-making. The motivations behind this tendency include “hostility”; anticipated regret; and concerns on post-choice social judgment from others. The replication is important in verifying the conclusions made in the original paper and the authors have clearly done an admirably thorough methodological and statistical groundwork to ensure that their replication minimizes bias. The only criticism of note is in the fuzziness of the term “hostile”, which appears to be a misnomer, but the authors 1) define it in the report; 2) appear to use the original term from the Curley, 1986 paper to name the specific condition.


The research question posed centers on a replication of a seminal study investigating the causes underlying ambiguity aversion. The validity of the research question, being a replication of an older but foundational study that deserves scrutiny, is sound.


The proposed study adheres very closely to the original one and in addition, quantifies this adherence (LeBel et al. (2019). The logic, rationale and plausibility of the hypotheses are therefore applicable, given the aim (replication).  

1C; 1D; 1E

The methodology of the proposed study is thorough and transparent, including with respect to samples sizes and power estimations, as well as data inclusion/exclusion. The authors included both comprehension and manipulation checks to maximize the reliability of their data. Packages used as well as the code implemented has been made available in addition to an exhaustive explanation of the methodology, making subsequent replication feasible to the community. The level of detail in the report further limits flexibility in the study’s subsequent analyses. The authors do propose some exploratory analyses but they appear hypothesis-driven and are not central to the study.


Leyla Loued-Khenissi


Reviewed by , 05 Apr 2022

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