The Negativity Effect in Interaction It's All in Your Point of View

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Abstract

The negativity effect is defined as the disproportionate weighting of negative information in comparison to equidistantly valenced positive information in the formation of judgments. The informativeness explanation of the negativity effect posits that the evaluative extremity (the distance from a psychological neutral point) and evaluative valence (positive/negative) of an event serve as determinants of its informativeness. Traditionally, this informativeness hypothesis explains the occurrence of a negativity effect by presuming a skewed distribution with unequal tails for the frequency of outcomes for valence; a mirror-image distribution for informativeness as a function of valence; and a negative, linear relationship between typicality and informativeness. These three assumptions were tested directly in this research through the fitting of nonlinear equations. It was determined that (a) a negatively skewed distribution of outcomes for valence does not occur in interaction contexts and that (b) typicality was a determinant of informativeness, although its importance as a determinant varies in response to whether one's perspective is that of an observer or a participant. Thus, reliance on evaluative extremity and evaluative valence as determinants of informativeness was rejected; these variables are only descriptors when the distribution for the frequency of outcomes for valence is skewed and has uneven tails.

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