PhD Research Seminar Florian Buehler



HG 5A24

The Information Backfire Effect

Florian Buehler

Amsterdam Business Research Institute

Business and Organisation


Florian Buehler will present his paper "The Information Backfire Effect" on 30 January at 16:00 hrs in room HG 5A24. 

In all kinds of areas, we continue to develop instruments that provide detailed performance information to people. It is thereby often assumed that more detailed information helps individuals to more accurately assess their own performance.

In the current research project, we provide evidence for the opposite of this notion of ‘more is better’. Specifically, we examine the idea that more detailed performance information can actually lead to overly optimistic but less accurate predictions of future performance. We further propose and test the idea that this effect is due the motivation to make self-serving justifications when people receive performance information that is too threatening to the self. This process maybe magnified by the availability of more detailed performance information. More precisely, we predict that having more information available may provide more reasons to make self-serving justifications. The consequence is that people become even more optimistic about future performance compared to a baseline where people have access to less information. Thus, instead of using detailed performance information to update their self-view, they use the information to protect their self-image.

In our study (N=228), we find this main-effect of information on future performance predictions and show that participants use the additional information provided by detailed information in a self-serving way, which results in a more favorable (but less accurate) assessment of their own performance. This adds to the literature by suggesting that self-maintenance goals play an important (and often unanticipated) role when receiving feedback: instead of improving accuracy of self-perceptions, detailed feedback may enable self-serving attributions, and positively bias self-views.