Negativity and potency effects in impression formation



This study examined the combined effects of likeability-related and potency-related information in an impression formation setting, using a 2 (likeability of target behaviour: high/low)×2(potency: high/low) design. Presumably, the behaviour of a strong, dislikeable person can produce more severe consequences than the behaviour of a weak, dislikeable or a strong, likeable person and, consequently, should be perceived as more informative. As predicted, judgements of the target person's likeability and potency indicated that (a) dislikeable behaviour carries more weight in likeability judgements when it co-occurs with strong than with weak behaviour, and that (b) strong behaviour carries more weight in potency judgements when it co-occurs with dislikeable than with likeable behaviour. These results suggest that the informativeness of behaviour is not only a function of its perceived causes (i.e. underlying dispositions) but also of its potential consequences for others.