The positive-negative asymmetry: On cognitive consistency and positivity bias


  • Revised version of a paper presented to the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology working group on Social Judgment, Konstanz, September, 1970. The author is grateful to the other participants of the working group for their useful comments, and especially to Professor Charles McClintock for an extensive critical review of the present draft.


Positivity bias is approached from three viewpoints: (a) It may be the effect of purely cognitive dispositions. (b) As such, it may function as an hypothesis about reality. The related dynamic factor would be a tendency toward cognitive validity which may lead to an orientation toward the negative as a means to test the positivity-hypothesis. (c) Finally, the subject may seek rewarding behavioral interactions with entities within his life space. In this context cognitive positivity bias may reflect a behavioural approach bias which can be related to the dynamics of ‘mere survival’ and ‘self-actualization’.