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Article

Ambiguity Tolerance
With Career Indecision:
An Examination of the
Mediation Effect of Career
Decision-Making Self-Efficacy

Journal of Career Assessment


1-14
The Author(s) 2014
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DOI: 10.1177/1069072714553073
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Hui Xu1 and Terence J. G. Tracey1

Abstract
The mediation of career decision-making self-efficacy on the link of ambiguity tolerance (AT) with
career indecision was examined in a sample of college students (N 253). It was hypothesized that
AT could help reduce career indecision through increasing career decision-making self-efficacy,
where this effect would vary by different types of indecision. Results supported the differential
mediation hypothesis, finding that career decision-making self-efficacy mediated the link of AT
with lack of motivation, general indecisiveness, lack of information, and inconsistent information.
The mediation effect of career decision-making self-efficacy on the link of AT with lack of motivation was relatively weak. The implications of this study are discussed and suggestions for future
research are provided.
Keywords
ambiguity tolerance, career decision-making self-efficacy, career indecision, career counseling

Career decision making is conceived by many theorists (e.g., Holland, 1997; Parsons, 1909;
Sampson, Lenz, Reardon, & Peterson, 1999) as a process of collecting information about oneself
and the world of work and then using information to find an area of match. However, this process
depends upon the quality of information gathered and also the ability to put the information
together in terms of determining a reasonable match. It is a difficult process and is fraught with
ambiguity. So a key aspect in career decision making is the ability to deal with this ambiguity.
Xu and Tracey (2014) revealed that ambiguity tolerance (AT) was negatively associated with
career indecision, where individuals who were tolerant of ambiguity had less indecision. As
self-efficacy has been acknowledged as a central variable closely linking to a variety of career outcomes (Lent & Brown, 2013; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994), we sought to examine whether

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

Corresponding Author:
Hui Xu, Counseling & Counseling Psychology, MC-0811, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.
Email: huixu5@asu.edu

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Journal of Career Assessment

career decision-making self-efficacy could help explain the positive effect of AT in regard to
career decision making. The focus of this study was to examine the mediation effect of career
decision-making self-efficacy on the link of AT with career indecision.

AT With Career Decision Making


Career decision making has been conceptualized for a long while as a process of collecting information regarding the vocational world and the self and then using the information collected to find
an area of match, as Parsons (1909) proposed. This model is based on rational choice theory, which
involves the key hypothesis that people have access to all the information and can make a rational
choice based on the information. However, this hypothesis is commonly unmet because of the
inevitable variance in the information available and the common conflicts in the information that
is available (Xu & Tracey, 2014). This informational ambiguity is especially salient in career decision making because of the lack of clear criteria for the optimal career choice and the increasing
complexity of the vocational world in the 21st century.
There has been research supporting the role of informational ambiguity in complex decision
making. Kahneman and Tveskys groundbreaking work (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979; Tversky
& Kahneman, 1981) has demonstrated that uncertainty plays a significant role in the decisionmaking process, which cannot be explained by the rational choice theory. As opposed to the
rational choice theory conceiving decision making as a process of comparing expected utilities,
Kahneman and Tversky found that in the condition of loss or gain, people tend to prefer or avoid
uncertainty, respectively (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979; Tversky & Kahneman, 1981). The results
thus portrayed uncertainty as an important factor in the complex decision-making process. Hsu,
Bhatt, Adolphs, Tranel, and Camerer (2005) portrayed ambiguity as a construct of a high level
of uncertainty and differentiated ambiguity tasks from regular uncertain tasks. They conceived
uncertainty as a product due to known event probabilities and conceived ambiguity as a product
due to unknown event probabilities. Neuropsychological evidence of the functional magnetic
resonance imaging supported the conceptual differentiation by finding the activation of the orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala only in the ambiguous condition. The informational ambiguity
is salient in career decision making because the career decision-making process has few clues to
the prospect of any career choice and is of extensive uncertainty (Xu & Tracey, 2014). Given this
role, it is expected that how people handle informational ambiguity would affect career decisionmaking outcomes.
One functional way of handling informational ambiguity could be building tolerance with
ambiguity. AT has been defined as the way individuals perceive and respond to ambiguous situations or stimuli characterized by an array of unfamiliar, complex, or inconsistent clues (Budner,
1962; Furnham & Ribchester, 1995). According to Furnham and Ribchester (1995), people with
low levels of AT tend to experience stress, react prematurely, and avoid ambiguous stimuli, while
those with high AT perceive ambiguous situations/stimuli as desirable and interesting and do not
deny or distort the complexity of incongruity. Therefore, AT portrays the individual difference in
terms of how people handle information unavailability and conflict (i.e., ambiguity) and would be
anticipated to relate to career decision-making outcomes as argued earlier.
There has been empirical evidence supporting the positive link of AT with career decision making. Endres, Chowdhury, and Milner (2009) found support for the link of AT with self-efficacy in a
complex decision task, suggesting that AT is a positive attribute in ambiguous decision-making
situations. Xu and Tracey (2014) have found that AR negatively predicted different areas of career
indecision directly when controlling for amount of career exploration regarding the self and the
world of work. A key assumption made in this study was that the association of AT with career
decision making would be mediated by career decision-making self-efficacy.
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Mediation of Career Decision-Making Self-Efficacy


The construct of career decision-making self-efficacy was largely derived from Banduras seminal
work of general self-efficacy (Betz & Luzzo, 1996; Taylor & Betz, 1983), which postulated selfefficacy to be an important mediator of individual behaviors, goals, and outcomes (Bandura,
1977). As a domain-specific self-efficacy, career decision-making self-efficacy describes an individuals belief regarding his or her ability to successfully complete tasks necessary to making career
decisions. Based on Crites (1978) model of career maturity, five processes of career decision making were conceived as critical for career decisions and thus these five processes were regarded as the
specific behavioral domains where career decision-making self-efficacy should be measured (Betz
& Luzzo, 1996; Taylor & Betz, 1983). These five domains consisted of (a) self-appraisal, (b) occupational information, (c) goal selection, (d) planning, and (e) problem solving.
Along with Banduras (1977) work, the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT; Lent & Brown,
2013; Lent et al., 1994) proposed career decision-making self-efficacy to be a pivotal mediator
explaining the career decision-making behaviors and the decision-making outcomes. The link
of career decision-making self-efficacy with career indecision has been well studied and solidly
supported by previous research. Betz, Klein, and Taylor (1996) revealed a strong association of
career decision-making self-efficacy with career decision certainty and career indecision. Brown
et al.s (2012) study indicated that lack of career decision-making self-efficacy marked one type of
career indecision. Osipow and Gati (1998) also showed that career decision-making self-efficacy
was strongly associated with two measures of career indecision. Using a meta-analytic approach,
Choi et al. (2012) revealed a large association of career decision-making self-efficacy with career
indecision among the existing studies.
A key structural path from AT to career decision-making self-efficacy and then to career indecision was proposed in this study based on the arguments of SCCT. The SCCT emphasizes the
preceding social learning experiences, which forms the foundation of the self-efficacy beliefs. The
self-efficacy beliefs then act as the pivotal internal cognitive unit affecting the subsequent behaviors and outcomes. One could argue that individuals with low AT tend to have less positive
experiences in the decision-making processes either in the career domain or in other life domains
because they are likely to have difficulty in handling complex decision-making situations. These
negative experiences would then be expected to form the basis of beliefs regarding ones career
decision-making abilities, which could lead to less adaptive career decision-making behaviors and
greater career indecision.
However, the research has demonstrated that career indecision is not a unidimensional construct (e.g., Brown et al., 2012; Gati, Krausz, & Osipow, 1996). Gati, Krausz, and Osipows
(1996) multi-dimensional model of career indecision was developed based on an adaptation of
decision-making theory to the context of career decisions. It originally proposed three overarching
domains of career indecision, consisting of lack of readiness, lack of information, and inconsistent
information. There has been a good deal of data supporting the reliability and validity of this
model among college students (e.g., Gati et al., 1996; Gati & Saka, 2001; Osipow & Gati,
1998). However, the previous research has also indicated that the three indicators of the lack of
readiness domain diverged from each other as demonstrated in the low correlations among the
indicators and the low alpha coefficients compared to the other two domains (e.g., Gati et al.,
1996; Gati & Saka, 2001; Osipow & Gati, 1998). This suggested that lack of readiness was a less
homogeneous factor. Instead, lack of readiness should be treated more as three distinct indecision
types. Based on these previous findings, we specified and adopted a revised model in the current
study by breaking down the lack of readiness domain into three indecision types, anticipating that
it would be a better representation of the data. The five resulting domains of career indecision were
thus lack of motivation (RM), general indecisiveness (RI), dysfunctinal beliefs (RD), lack of
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Journal of Career Assessment

information (LI), and inconsistent information (II). Xu and Tracey (2014) provided support for
the structural validity of this revised model in the findings of satisfactory model data fit and
factor loadings. The revised multidimensional model acknowledged the various aspects of career
indecision and enabled us to investigate the potentially differential predictions on domains of
career indecision.
We hypothesized that the mediation effect of career decision-making self-efficacy occurs on
the paths from AT to all the five domains of career indecision. As argued earlier, people with poor
AT are more likely to have poor self-efficacy regarding career decision making. They would be
anticipated to have less motivation for career decision making, as it could be a challenging activity
for them to avoid. They tend to have more general indecisiveness and dysfunctional beliefs, as
they hold less faith with their career decision-making abilities and with the possibilities of optimizing their career choices. With the poor self-efficacy in mind, they are also likely to have more
information deficit and conflict, as they tend to engage in less functional information searching
and integration behaviors.
However, the associations of career decision-making self-efficacy with lack of motivation, general indecisiveness, and dysfunctional beliefs were proposed to be weaker than the ones with lack of
information and inconsistent information. We argued that poor information collecting behaviors
resulting from poor self-efficacy could largely contribute to lack of information and inconsistent
information, whereas individual values and personality independent of self-efficacy could significantly account for lack of motivation, general indecisiveness, and dysfunctional beliefs. The differential hypotheses resonated with Gati et al.s (1996) indecision model that lack of motivation,
general indecisiveness, and dysfunctional beliefs were grouped together as they were more of
chronological and characteristic issues arising before the career decision-making progress, while
lack of information and inconsistent information were grouped together as they were more of developmental and behavioral issues arising during the career decision-making process. Osipow and Gati
(1998) have shown a similar pattern of differential associations between career decision-making
self-efficacy with different domains of indecision in the findings of stronger correlations between
career decision-making self-efficacy with lack of information and inconsistent information.
Based on Xu and Tracey (2014)s preliminary finding of AT being negatively associated with
career indecision, this study was intended to advance the research topic by investigating how this
effect occurs and specifically examine one possible meditational path proposed by an important
career model of SCCT. The meditational examination has never been conducted regarding the link
of AT with career indecision to our best knowledge and the mechanism of how AT leads to less
career indecision is still unclear. The mediation of career decision-making self-efficacy is especially important for career counseling practice with the SCCT framework, where career
decision-making self-efficacy is the central vehicle of the model and insights regarding the predictors of self-efficacy are needed for a more effective intervention. Xu and Tracey (2014) investigated the link of AT with career indecision in a sample of major undecided freshman students. In
order to enhance generalizability, a more diverse sample that varied from the one used by Xu and
Tracey (2014) was selected in this study, consisting of both major decided and undecided students
in various grades.

Research Hypothesis
To sum up, the model of the hypothesized structural relations is depicted in Figure 1. As noted
earlier, AT predicts career decision-making self-efficacy (path a) because ambiguity-tolerant people
tend to have positive decision-making experiences and could form a better decision-making selfefficacy. Career decision-making self-efficacy predicts all the five domains of career indecision
(paths b, c, d, e, and f) because people confident in their career decision-making skills tend to have
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Figure 1. The hypothesized mediation model. Note. AT ambiguity tolerance; CDSE career decision selfefficacy; RM lack of motivation; RI general indecisiveness; RD dysfunctional beliefs; LI lack of information; II inconsistent information.

more adaptive career decision-making activities, which could help assuage the indecision due to lack
of motivation, general indecisiveness, dysfunctional beliefs, lack of information, and information
inconsistency. Finally, career decision-making self-efficacy has stronger predictions on lack of
information and inconsistent information than on lack of motivation, general indecisiveness, and
dysfunctional beliefs (i.e., b < e, b < f, c < e, c < f, d < e, and d < f).

Method
Participants
The sample consisted of 253 undergraduate students recruited from a southwest state university.
They ranged in age from 18 to 42 (M 19.37, SD 2.27). Of the sample, 34.8% were male
(n 88), 64.8% were female (n 164), and 0.4% were self-identified as others (n 1). In terms
of race/ethnicity, 5.9% (n 15) were African American/Black, 6.7% (n 17) were Asian/Asian
American, 24.9% (n 63) were Latino or Latina/Hispanic, 51.4% (n 130) were Caucasian/White,
2.0% (n 5) were Native American, 8.3% (n 21) were Multi-racial, and .8% (n 2) were selfidentified as others. In terms of major, 54.9% (n 139) were in an exploratory program and the
other 45.1% (n 114) were from a variety of majors.
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Measurement
The Multiple Stimulus Types Ambiguity Tolerance Scale II. The Multiple Stimulus types Ambiguity
Tolerance Scale II (MSTAT-II; McLain, 2009) is a 13-item measure designed to measure an individuals tolerance for situations that are unfamiliar, insoluble, or complex (Budner, 1962). The
MSTAT-II measures the participants degree of AT based on following five stimulus types: ambiguous stimuli in general, complex stimuli, uncertain stimuli, new/unfamiliar/novel stimuli, and insoluble/illogical/internally inconsistent stimuli (e.g., I try to avoid situations that are ambiguous and
I prefer familiar situations to new ones). Items would be rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Higher scores indicate higher AT. McLain
(2009) reported Cronbachs a of .83. Xu and Tracey (2014) reported an acoefficient of .76. Validity
evidence of high correlations with other common AT measures and risk-taking propensity and low
correlation with social desirability were reported as well (McLain, 2009). An a estimate of .82 was
obtained using the current sample.
The Career Decision Self-Efficacy Short Form. The Career Decision Self-Efficacy Short Form (CDSESF; Betz, Klein, & Taylor, 1996) is a 25-item measure designed to assess the self-efficacy for five
skill domains viewed as crucial for effective career decision making (Crites, 1978). These five
domains consist of (a) accurate self-appraisal (e.g., Accurately assess your abilities), (b) gathering
occupational information (e.g., Use the internet to find information about occupations that interest
you), (c) goal selection (e.g., Choose a career that will fit your preferred lifestyle), (d) making
plans for the future (e.g., Make a plan of your goals for the next 5 years), and (e) problem solving
(e.g., Change majors if you did not like your first choice). Responses would be scored on a 5-point
Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (no competence at all) to 5 (complete competence). The internal
consistency a for the CDSE-SF ranges from .93 to .94 (Betz & Luzzo, 1996). There is an extensive
body of data supporting the validity of CDSE-SF (e.g., Betz & Luzzo, 1996), including its significant
correlations with career indecision, fear of occupational commitment, career maturity, and career
exploratory behaviors. The current data revealed an a coefficient of .94.
The Career Decision-Making Difficulty Questionnaire. The Career Decision-Making Difficulty Questionnaire (CDDQ; Gati et al., 1996) was developed based upon Gati and his colleagues (1996) taxonomy of career decision-making difficulties. The 3-item Lack of Motivation (RM) scale measures
career indecision due to lack of motivation (e.g., I know that I have to choose a career, but I do
not have the motivation to make the decision now). The 3-item General Indecisivenss (RI) scale
measures career indecision due to inhibiting indecisiveness (e.g., It is usually difficult for me to
make decisions). The 4-item Dysfunctional Beliefs (RD) scale measures career indecision due
to dysfunctional cognition (e.g., I believe there is only one career that suits me). The 12-item Lack
of Informtion (LI) scale measures career indecision due to information deficit (e.g., I find it difficult to make a career decision because I still do not know which occupations interest me). The 10item Inconsistent Information (II) scale measures career indecision due to informational conflicts
(e.g., I find it difficult to make a career decision because I have contradictory data about the existence or the characteristics of a particular occupation or training program). Participants were asked
to rate on a 9-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (does not describe me) to 9 (describes me well).
Gati, Ryzhik, and Vertsberger (2013) reported acoefficients as .66, .64, .61, .89, and .79 for the RM,
RI, RD, LI, and II scales, respectively. Xu, Hou, and Tracey (2014) found acoefficients of .66, .72,
.63, .93, and .89 for the RM, RI, RD, LI, and II scales, respectively. Osipow and Gati (1998) found a
strong positive association of the CDDQ with the Career Decision Scale and a strong negative association of the CDDQ with the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale, providing evidence for the
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validity of the CDDQ. This study found a coefficients of .70, .72, .52, .96, and .93 for the RM, RI,
RD, LI, and II scales, respectively.

Procedure
College students participating in career development, introduction to psychology, or university
orientation classes were invited to participate in this study as an extra credit opportunity. Voluntary participants filled a demographic questionnaire and the package of research instruments
online. All the individual responses were kept as anonymous and confidential through analysis.
Of the 260 total participatns, 7 participants withdrew from the study and did not answer the
CDDQ. They were not included in the final data set. According to the setting of the online survey,
participants were required to answer all items before they could move to the next part. Thus, there
were no missing data in the final data set.

Analysis
Mplus 7 was employed to conduct the latent variable Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) because
such an approach would enable the examination among error-free latent contstructs instead of
error-laden manifest variables. Given the low reliability of some of the indecision scales, such
an approach makes the most sense. The means for the five subscales of MSTAT-II, corresponding
to the five theoretical stimulus types, were used as the indicators of the latent AT. The means for
the five subscales of CDSE-SF, corresponding to the five theoretical behavioral domains crucial to
career decision making, were used as the indicators of the latent career decision-making selfefficacy. The manifest items of the RM, RI, and RD subscales of CDDQ were used as the indicators of the latent RM, RI, and RD domains. The subscales under the domains of LI and II were used
as the indicators of the latent LI and II domains.
The latent variable SEM enabled us to examine the structural relations without the confound
of the measurement error and thus results in a more precise examiantion. The fit of the models
would be evaluated using the criteria recommended by Hu and Bentler (1999) which include
robust chi-square, comparative fit index (CFI), root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA),
and standardized root mean square residual (SRMR). With the purpose of making the statistical tests
robust to nonnormality, we adopted the robust maximum likelihood parameter estimation. A nested
model comparison approach was used to precisely examine which model represented the data better.
Differences between nested models were compared using the SantorraBentler scaled chi-square
difference test (Muthen & Muthen, 2012).
The SEM bias-corrected bootstrapping approach (n 1,000) of mediation test was used in this
study, given its superior performance in the simulaiton studies (Cheung & Lau, 2008). As Cheung
and Lau (2008) suggested if the 95% confidence interval (CI) does not contain zero, then the mediation effect is significant at the a level of .05.

Results
Table 1 showed the means, SDs, and bivariate correlations of AT, career decision-making selfefficacy, and domains of career indecision. Table 2 summarizes the fit indices of all the models.
We first examined the measurement model of the proposed model (Model 1), in which career
decision-making self-efficacy mediates the relation of AT to different domains of career indecision.
The measurement model was found to fit the data adequately with respect to the RMSEA (.066)
and the CFI (.90); however the SRMR (.093) was above the recommended levels. An examination of
the modification indices as well as the factor loadings indicated that 1 item (CDDQ10) in the RD
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Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, Cronbach a, and Correlations of Variables.


M
AT
CDSE
RM
RI
RD
LI
II

3.20
3.64
2.93
5.46
4.56
3.48
3.24

SD

Ca

AT

CDSE

RM

RI

RD

LI

0.49
0.56
1.52
1.83
1.35
1.74
1.69

.82
.94
.70
.72
.52
.96
.93

.30**
.26**
.45**
.18**
.37**
.27**

.32**
.38**
.02
.58**
.50**

.26**
.08
.56**
.57**

.17**
.45**
.37**

.15*
.11

.86**

Note. N 253. AT Ambiguity Tolerance (MSTAT-II); CDSE Career Decision Self-EfficacySF; RM CDDQ-Lack of
Motivation; RI CDDQ-General Indecisiveness; RD CDDQ-Dysfunctional Beliefs; LI CDDQ-Lack of Information;
II CDDQ-Inconsistent Information.
*p < .05.
**p < .01.

Table 2. Summary of Model Fit Index for Model Comparison.


Root Mean Square
Error of Approximation

Model 1 measurement
Model 2 revised measurement
Model 3.1 structural
Model 3.2 structural alternative
Model 4 modified structural
Model 5 parsimonious
Model 6.1 (b c e f)
Model 6.2 (b e)
Model 6.3 (b f)
Model 6.4 (c e)
Model 6.5 (c f)
Model 7 final

w2

df

639.71
529.49
574.70
600.27
529.49
530.23
540.02
538.65
537.45
532.51
531.87
532.67

303
278
283
283
278
279
282
280
280
280
280
281

90% Confidence
Comparative
Estimate
Interval
Fit Index
.90
.92
.91
.90
.92
.92
.92
.92
.92
.92
.92
.92

.066
.060
.064
.067
.060
.060
.060
.060
.060
.060
.060
.059

[.059,
[.052,
[.056,
[.059,
[.052,
[.052,
[.052,
[.053,
[.053,
[.052,
[.052,
[.052,

.073]
.067]
.071]
.074]
.067]
.067]
.068]
.068]
.068]
.067]
.067]
.067]

Standardized Root
Mean Square
Residual
.093
.065
.083
.107
.065
.066
.069
.069
.068
.067
.067
.067

Note. N 253.

scale had significant cross loadings on all the other domains of career indecision (i.e., RM, RI, LI,
and II) and on CDSE, whereas its factor loading on the latent RD was poor (.12). The CDDQ10
literally asked individuals the degree to which I expect that through the career I choose I will fulfill
all my aspirations. It was plausible to suggest that the career belief reflected in this item was more
associated with the individual optimism or self-efficacy, instead of the dysfunctional rigidity among
the population being investigated in this study. We thus dropped this item in the following analysis
and examined the revised measurement model (Model 2) again. As can be seen by the values of CFI
(.92), RMSEA (.060), and SRMR (.065), this model fits the data acceptably. The individual factor
loadings for all the latent factors were found to be significant and of moderate to large magnitude,
further supporting the structure validity of all the latent variables.
We then examined the full structural model (Model 3.1). The values of CFI (.91) and RMSEA
(.064) indicated an adequate model data fit. However, one problem with structural analysis based
on cross-sectional data is that the reverse model could fit the data equally or even better. We thus
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tested the alternative model (Model 3.2) of career decision-making self-efficacy leading to AT and
to career indecision. As can be seen from the values of CFI (.90), RMSEA (.067), and SRMR (.107),
the model fit was marginal. The original model had slightly better fit indicators, indicating that the
original structural model was a better representation of the data than the alternative one.
However, the value of SRMR (.083) of the original structural model (Model 3.1) was above the
ideal level, indicating that this model was a mediocre representation of the data. The significant
result of the corrected chi-square difference test also indicated that this model omitted some
important paths in the saturated model, scaled Dw2(5, N 253) 59.97, p < .05. The modification
indices suggested that AT directly predicted the five domains of career indecision (i.e., RM, RI,
RD, LI, and II) as well. We thus specified a modified model (Model 4) based on Model 3.1 but
adding the paths from AT to lack of motivation (path g), general indecisiveness (path h), dysfunctional beliefs (path i), lack of information (path j), and inconsistent information (path k). The
Model 4 was found to fit the data adequately as can be seen from the values of CFI (.92), RMSEA
(.060), and SRMR (.065). This model included all the possible structural paths and thus represented the data equivalently as the saturated measurement model. The examination of the
individual regression coefficients revealed one nonsignificant path from career decision-making
self-efficacy to dysfunctional beliefs (path d), indicating that career decision-making
self-efficacy was not associated with dysfunctional beliefs.
We then continued to specify a more parsimonious model (Model 5) by dropping the nonsignificant path in Model 4 (path d). As can be seen from the values of CFI (.92), RMSEA (.060), and
SRMR (.066), this model was found to fit the data adequately. The scaled chi-square difference
test indicated that this model did not significantly worsen the model data fit compared to Model
4 and the measurement model, scaled Dw2(1, N 253) .37, p > .05.
Based on Model 5, we constrained the paths b, c, e, and f in Model 6.1 to test whether there were
differential predictions of career decision-making self-efficacy on different domains of indecision.
This model was found to fit the data adequately as can be seen from the values of CFI (.92),
RMSEA (.060), and SRMR (.069). The corrected chi-square difference test between Model 6.1
and Model 5 was significant, scaled Dw2(3, N 253) 7.81, p < .05, indicating that the fully constrained model was a worse representation of the data and thus there were differences in the paths
b, c, e, and f. We then constrained one pair of paths each time (i.e., b e, b f, c e, and c f
respectively) to precisely examine the hypothesis of differential predictions.
Model 6.2 constrained the paths b and e. As can be seen from the values of CFI (.92), RMSEA
(.060), and SRMR (.069), this model fits the data adequately. The corrected chi-square difference
test between Model 6.2 and Model 5 was significant, scaled Dw2(3, N 253) 7.14, p < .05, indicating that paths b and e were different. It was thus suggested that career decision-making selfefficacy was more predictive of lack of information than lack of motivation.
Model 6.3 constrained the paths b and f. As can be seen from the values of CFI (.92), RMSEA
(.060), and SRMR (.068), this model fits the data adequately. The corrected chi-square difference
test between Model 6.3 and Model 5 was significant, scaled Dw2(3, N 253) 6.18, p < .05, indicating that paths b and f were different. It was thus suggested that career decision-making selfefficacy was more predictive of inconsistent information than lack of motivation.
Model 6.4 constrained the paths c and e. As can be seen from the values of CFI (.92), RMSEA
(.060), and SRMR (.067), this model fits the data adequately. The corrected chi-square difference
test between Model 6.4 and Model 5 was not significant, scaled Dw2(3, N 253) 2.33, p >
.05, indicating that path c and path e were equal. It was thus suggested that career decisionmaking self-efficacy was equally predictive of lack of information and general indecisiveness.
Model 6.5 constrained the paths c and f. As can be seen from the values of CFI (.92), RMSEA
(.060), and SRMR (.067), this model fits the data adequately. The corrected chi-square difference
test between Model 6.5 and Model 5 was not significant, scaled Dw2(3, N 253) 1.63, p > .05,
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Figure 2. The final model. Note. AT ambiguity tolerance; CDSE career decision self-efficacy; RM lack of
motivation; RI general indecisiveness; RD dysfunctional beliefs; LI lack of information; II inconsistent
information.

indicating that paths c and f were equal. It was thus suggested that career decision-making selfefficacy was equally predictive of inconsistent information and general indecisiveness.
Using these results, we specified a partially constrained model (Model 7) in which paths c, e,
and f were set to be equal. Model 7 was found to fit the data adequately as can be seen from the
values of CFI (.92), RMSEA (.059), and SRMR (.067). The corrected chi-square difference test
indicated that Model 7 did not significantly worsen the model data fit compared to Model 5, scaled
Dw2(2, N 253) 2.29, p > .05. Therefore, this model was endorsed as the final model based on
the revised indecision model (see Figure 2 for all the standardized coefficients).
Although we used an altered model of indecision in our analysis, based on past research, we
also examined our model using Gati et al. (1996)s original indecision model in relation to AT and
career decision-making self-efficacy. The values of CFI (.92), RMSEA (.074), and SRMR (.060)
indicated that the structural model was an acceptable representation of the data. The regression
coefficients also revealed a similar structural pattern (i.e., differential paths) with the final model
(Model 7). However, the poor factor loading of dysfunctional beliefs on lack of readiness (.15)
brought into question the construct validity of Gati et al. (1996)s original model in the current
sample. Therefore, our final model based on the revised indecision model was selected as the best
representation of the data.
Table 3 presented the results of the SEM bias-corrected bootstrapping analysis of the mediation
effect of career decision-making self-efficacy based on the final model. As can be seen from the
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Table 3. The SEM Bias-Corrected Bootstrapping Test of the Mediation Effect of Career Decision-Making
Self-Efficacy.
Independent Variable

Mediator Variable

Dependent Variable

Ambiguity tolerance

Career decision-making
self-efficacy

Lack of motivation
General indecisiveness
Dysfunctional beliefs
Lack of information
Inconsistent information

Estimate

95% Confidence
Interval

.12
.14
.00
.19
.17

[.20, .04]
[.20, .08]
[.00, .00]
[.28, .11]
[.24, .10]

Note. N 253.

95% CIs for the paths a and b [.20, .04], a and c [.20, .08], a and e [.28, .11], and a and
f [.24, .10], it was well supported that career decision-making self-efficacy mediated the
predictions of AT on lack of motivation, general indecisiveness, lack of information, and inconsistent information. Results suggested that people with high AT tend to have a better career
decision-making self-efficacy, which could contribute to the relief of career indecision due to
lack of motivation, general indecisiveness, lack of information, or inconsistent information. The
mediation effect of career decision-making self-efficacy on the link of AT with dysfunctional
beliefs was not revealed in the current study.

Discussion
Overall, the key structural hypothesis that career decision-making self-efficacy mediated the link
of AT with career indecision was supported by the current results, although variations existed with
different domains of career indecision. Career decision-making self-efficacy was found to mediate
the link of AT with lack of motivation, general indecisiveness, lack of information, and inconsistent information, while the link of career decision-making self-efficacy with dysfunctional beliefs
was not revealed in this study. The results thus suggested that individuals with more tolerance to
ambiguity tend to have better self-efficacy regarding career decision making and consequently
tend to have more motivation for career decision making, less general indecisiveness, less informational deficit, and less informational conflict. The SCCT (Lent & Brown, 2013; Lent et al.,
1994) has proposed career decision-making self-efficacy to be a pivotal mediator explaining the
outcome of the career decision-making process and the close connection of career decisionmaking self-efficacy with career indecision has been unequivocally demonstrated (Choi et al.,
2012). Although Xu and Tracey (2014) have revealed the negative association of AT with career
indecision, this study further suggested that the benefits of AT with respect to career decision making could be attributable to the increased self-efficacy beliefs regarding ones critical career
decision-making skills. Since the current data were only cross-sectional, a longitudinal examination in the future would be helpful providing more validity to the temporal mediation hypothesis.
The differential associations of career decision-making self-efficacy with different domains
of career indecision were supported in this study, although the differential pattern was not exactly
the same as we hypothesized. The results showed that the association of career decision-making
self-efficacy with lack of motivation was weaker than the ones with general indecisiveness, lack of
information, or inconsistent information. It was thus suggested that an increased career decisionmaking self-efficacy resulted from more tolerance with ambiguity would be more beneficial with
the issues of general indecisiveness, informational deficit, and informational conflict in career
decision making than with the issue of motivation shortage. This piece of data was consistent with
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Gati et al. (2013)s finding that the effect of a career workshop on lack of motivation was small
compared to the effect on other domains of career indecision and career decision-making selfefficacy, thus calling for more future research investigating the important predictors unique to this
domain. It was plausible that individual value could be a promising candidate. The differential
associations also resonated with the distinction between career indecision and career indecisiveness (Germeijs, Verschueren, & Soenens, 2006) that indecision is more associated with career
cognition/behaviors and indecisiveness is more associated with chronic dispositions.
Among the five domains of career indecision, the domain of dysfunctional beliefs was not
found to associate with career decision-making self-efficacy, indicating that the positive effect
of AT with dysfunctional beliefs revealed in Xu and Tracey (2014)s study was not directly related
to an increased career decision-making self-efficacy. Characteristics of dysfunctional beliefs are
the rigidity and the compulsivity of beliefs. The research has demonstrated the relation of cognitive inflexibility with obsessivecompulsive personality traits (DeBerry, 2012) and the rigidity of
attitudes (Martin & Rubin, 1995). Together with these studies, this study suggested that the positive effect of AT with dysfunctional beliefs did not go through the cognitive beliefs regarding
ones career decision-making skills, rather it might be mediated by another cognitive orientationthe cognitive flexibility. It would be interesting to see future research investigating the mediation of cognitive flexibility on the link of ambiguity with career indecision, especially the
domain of dysfunctional beliefs.
Along with the indirect effect of AT on domains of career indecision through career decisionmaking self-efficacy, this study also revealed significant direct predictions of AT on all the five
domains of career indecision. This finding was consistent with the previous research portraying
AT as one important predictor accounting for some unique variances in career indecision. Xu
et al. (2014) have found that environmental exploration and self-career exploration did not contribute to the relief of career indecision as much as Parsons (1909) proposed. Xu and Tracey (2014)
revealed that AT additively predicted domains of career indecision when controlling for the amount
of career exploration. This study extended this research line by showing that AT accounted for the
unique variance in career indecision that could not be explained by the construct of self-efficacy,
which has been acknowledged as a central variable in the career development research (Lent &
Brown, 2013; Lent et al., 1994). The incremental validity of AT in predicting career indecision indicated in this study thus further supported the important role of AT in career decision making. Individuals of high tolerance with ambiguity were likely to show a pattern of less career indecision
across different indecision domains, which warranted the necessity and benefits of addressing this
topic in career counseling.
There are several limitations regarding the conclusions drawn from this study. First, the study
only sampled college students so that the results cannot be generalized to younger or older individuals. The study is cross sectional and thus the sequential ordering of variables cannot be definitively
determined. Longitudinal examinations are needed. Further, although the study supported the
revised indecision model used, it was different from the one proposed by Gati et al. (1996) and this
difference could be attributable to sample error. However, a similar structure was supported in Xu
and Tracey (2014), providing some support for the indecision dimensions used in this study.
On a whole, this study addressed one important question regarding how AT leads to less career
indecision through the mediation of enhanced career decision-making self-efficacy. Although the
bivariate association of AT with career indecision has been revealed in Xu and Traceys (2014)
study, the mechanism of this effect has not been explored. Limited knowledge about the mechanism
makes the substantive meaning of the construct of AT with respect to career indecision unclear and
thus prevents it from generating greater application in career counseling. This study provided
another piece of evidence in addition to Xu and Tracey (2014) supporting the importance of AT with
career decision making. More importantly, AT has been revealed by this study to lead to less
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career indecision through one specific path mediated by career decision-making self-efficacy,
which additionally helps explain the positive effect of AT with respect to career decision making.
Along with the general mediation pattern, this study also found differential predictions of career
decision-making self-efficacy on different domains of career indecision, suggesting that an
increased self-efficacy resulted from more AT would have differential effects on different
domains of indecision. Specifically, the domains of lack of motivation and dysfunctional beliefs
tended to benefit less as opposed to general indecisiveness, lack of information, and inconsistent
information. As the association of career decision-making self-efficacy with career indecision has
been solidly revealed (Choi et al., 2012), this study adds into the literature by revealing heterogeneity in the efficacyindecision link. Thus, although the substantive utility of AT in career counseling is further supported by this study, intervention strategies tailed to different indecision types
are also warranted.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article.

Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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