Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Ambiguity exists in a number of everyday situations, particularly when encountering complex social or epistemic situations in the context of education or work. Tolerance of ambiguity is expected to predict emotional reactions to complex problems, including avoidance behaviors that are associated with difficulty in achieving a professional or academic goal. While the study of tolerance of ambiguity has been extensive, widely used global measures of tolerance of ambiguity appear to produce scores inconsistent with their proposed structures. The recent development of the Multidimensional Attitudes Toward Ambiguity scale (MAAS) presents an alternative to global, one-factor measures of the construct, and it appears to reflect the need for tolerance of ambiguity measures to encompass more than one broad pattern of emotional reactivity. Despite the apparent strengths of the MAAS, the place of tolerance of ambiguity within the network of related constructs and the utility of the MAAS in predicting outcomes related to common sources of ambiguity are unclear. The goals of the present studies are 1) to clarify the place of tolerance of ambiguity within the nomological network, 2) to replicate the proposed structure of the MAAS, 3) to explore relations between tolerance of ambiguity and academic success outcomes, and 4) to explore tolerance of ambiguity’s possible relations with workplace outcomes.
Study 1 estimated the relation between tolerance of ambiguity and the Big Five personality traits using meta-analysis. Tolerance of ambiguity and openness to experience were found to be strongly related but not identical. Study 2 examined the structure of scores on the MAAS, compared tolerance of ambiguity scores to those of related constructs, and explored the relations between such “closed mindedness” variables and academic success. Scores on the MAAS fit a bifactor structure better than alternative models, but this structure did not reach clear good fit. Tolerance of ambiguity was found to be significantly correlated with dogmatism, need for closure, and facets of openness to experience. However, tolerance of ambiguity explained additional variance in both college grades and intentions to drop out of college after accounting for these variables. Study 3 utilized a sample of employed adults to explore the ability of the MAAS to predict positive and negative workplace outcomes. Tolerance of ambiguity was expected to be positively related to job performance, job satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Tolerance of ambiguity was also expected to be negatively related to job stress, job withdrawal, and counterproductive workplace behaviors. All hypothesized relations were expected to be stronger when greater perceived job ambiguity was reported. Tolerance of ambiguity was found to be related to higher job satisfaction. When perceived job ambiguity was high, tolerance of ambiguity was also found to be related to lower job performance, more counterproductive workplace behaviors, and less job withdrawal. The results of the present research suggest that the MAAS currently has predictive utility despite its psychometric shortcomings. Revision of the MAAS is recommended to further explore the ability of tolerance of ambiguity to explain fit between individuals and organizations.
Tynan, Michael, "Multidimensional tolerance of ambiguity: Construct validity, academic success, and workplace outcomes" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 18239.