Jehan Sparks studies how positive vs. negative information informs our opinions. One of the things she looks at is something called a “negativity bias” where negative events loom larger than positive events when we’re forming a summary impression. We talk about the nature of good vs. bad, how the order in which we learn information matters, and how different people think about information differently.
Things we mention in the episode:
- How “good vs. bad” can be too simple (Sparks, 2020)
- The “negativity bias” (Baumeister et al., 2001; Rozin & Royzman, 2001)
- How opinions depend on the order in which you learn information (Sparks & Ledgerwood, 2017)
- Negativity bias to explain risk-taking (Pietri, Fazio, & Shook, 2013)
- The effects of age on the negativity bias (Sparks & Ledgerwood, 2018)
Download a PDF version of this episode’s transcript.
way. So many of the stories that catch our attention are about the struggle between good and evil. The oldest religions distinguished between good spirits and evil spirits. And these days we debate whether avocados have good fats or bad fats. It’s this simple fight between good and bad that’s really at the heart of what opinions are for me to support. My local food bank is for me to associate it with the concept of good for me to hate my mortal enemy is for me to associate him, and he knows who he is with the concept of bad in fancy terms, we refer to positive or negative as the valin ce of your opinion. So what can seem like sophisticated opinions often boil down to this simple distinction between good versus bad like versus dislike, support versus opposed like Consider my cat. It might seem a little weird to say that she has opinions, but there are things she likes and things she dislikes. I mean, she sure loves food. She screams at me louder than a £10 for ball ought to scream when it’s time for dinner, and she definitely hates getting her nails clipped those are basically her opinions. Oh, and she didn’t love Season two of the Wire. It turns out you’re listening to Opinion, Science, the show about the science of our opinions, where they come from and how they change. I’m Andy Latrell, and this week I talked to John Sparks. She was recently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Cologne, and soon she’ll start a postdoctoral position at new C. L. A’s Anderson School of Management. John studies violence, especially how positives versus negatives can carry different weight. When we’re figuring out what our opinion of something is, we’ll talk about how violence can get messy and why people so easily get hung up in the negatives. So I’m wondering if we could start by having you talk a little bit about what violence is, what people have talked about violence before, on what that bias in Vaillant has tended to look like. And then we can get that kind of work that you’ve done with this.
Absolutely. Yes. So we’re, um, have tended Thio talk about violence and study Valance as, um, historically at least as a dichotomy, really. So something is positive or something is negative. Um, of course, you I know work on billons, and a lot of other people have been talking about how that conceptualization it’s too simple in many different research areas. But, um, I think if you were Thio, try to categorize like, historically and maybe just how everyday people think about violence. It would be a really straightforward thing of, you know, we can distinguish between almost every experience that we have is something that is good or bad, something that we like or dislike, you know, more or less, Um, it’s an easy way to cat cried. So
as we move through the world, we just kind of have these two bins, the good been and the bad been, and we’re just putting our experiences into one or the other. And that sort of summarizes how we think about our experiences
pretty much, um and that’s it tends to be really useful simplification oversimplification. But, um, yeah, it’s probably helped us. It’s probably adaptive to think in that way. Um, of course it’s oversimplified, but, um, you know, it gives us at least a starting point on and certainly been helpful for researchers in many different areas. Economists think about um, violence in that way. Uh, even now, a lot of times, psychologist, of course, have, um as you know, uh, sort of made that much more nuanced in many different areas of cognitive psychology and, of course, attitudes, researchers.
You say that it’s over simplified and kind of like, Of course, it’s over simplified. But if you think it has, it always been such an obvious thing that that’s too simple. There’s sort of a part of that that feels pretty comfortable that Yeah, there are good things in their bad things. And why would it have to be more complicated than that?
Yeah, I think that’s a fair point. Um, you know, I mean, yeah, I think of myself as someone who’s, like, generally ambivalent, like I am would say that if you have you asked me, You know, um do I like running? Yes, I like running, but of court. But you know, when I when I sit down and think about it a little more deeply and like Well, um you know, I get injured a lot. It’s really hard. Thio. Um and I keep trying to get fitter. And you know what? That my muscles get sore. And so I have really mixed feelings toward running, and I wonder, you know how my attitude toward running changes over time as I go through these different experiences. So that’s a question that I’ve been, I think a lot about, a sort of how the order of different um valances may influence our attitudes over time and how much our attitudes change.
So I know you’ve done work on negativity. Bias is sort of a general thing, So
to talk about a little bit about what that is in general. And then you can get into the wrinkles that you added to it.
Yeah, so negativity Bias is a really a thought to be a really broad and general psychological phenomenon. It’s the idea that bad is stronger than good, or that the psychological effect of bad or negative events tends to outweigh the psychological effect of good for positive events. And this has been shown in a really impressively wide variety of domains. In fact, it’s it’s been argued to be the may be the most general psychological principle out there. So, for example, we know that people pay more attention thio negative than positive information. We know that people respond more to negative than positive emotions. People prioritize negative over positive information when they’re forming impressions of other people. Even at a neurological level, the brain responds more to negative stimuli than positives to me. Life. Um so, yeah, there’s this very, very general sense that negatives outweigh positives even when they’re an equal number. Um, whether equal, extreme, Um and and there’s this large literature about this. So a lot of my research studies negativity, bias in a slightly different sort of way. So So the typical way that people have studied is to look at one type of event or one attitude, and so they’re looking at something that’s negative and something that’s positive and trying to equate those in terms of extremity or something and showing that that negative thing still outweighs has the stronger psychological impact than the positive thing. And what my collaborators and I were sort of interested in is okay, but people don’t really just see one thing in everyday life, right? We rarely see something like framed. We study framing, you know, frame just once we tend to see things framed and reframed in different ways over time. So what happens when we see positives and negatives and sequence? Can people switch just as easily from positive to negative framing, for example, as from negative to positive framing order? They tend to get stuck in one way of thinking. And why might that be? And so we draw a lot on this large literature theory and research about negativity bias to make predictions for this literature on framing.
So to make this a little more concretely, let’s just imagine that you’re forming an impression of a person. And it’s usually not the case that you only learned one thing about a person. I mean, sometimes our studies. That’s exactly what we do. We’re like, Here’s a guy named John. You’re gonna learn one thing about him. So buckle up and pay attention because this is all you’re gonna get about John and then you feel it’s a depression. But realistically, what happens is you meet a person. You learned all sorts of things about that person unfolding over time, and then you use kind of all of that information to form an impression. So what I’m hearing you say, is that if the first thing I learned about John is unpleasant or something unsavory about him that’s gonna have carry a lot of weight in my overall impression. Even if what I end up learning is positive stuff about John. Whereas if I started out learning something positive, what is it that the new negative stuff I learned is then what happens there?
Yeah. So what we see in that case is actually that people’s attitudes just follow along with the information or with the frame. So if they first learned, um, something positive about John, they feel pretty positive about him. Say, like, John quite a lot. If they then see something negative pretty dramatically changed my mind. Decide Not so keen on John. But the other way around attitudes are as flexible. You see the negative thing first. You think John’s probably not a great guy. I don’t really like him. But if you see the positive thing, then second, your attitude doesn’t shift as much toward that positive frame or in the positive direction, suggesting that you tended to get stuck in that initial negative way of thinking about John. Yeah, and we have shown it actually, in person perception, things like exactly like you’re describing, but it’s unpublished for
you know, this also reminds me of consumer experiences, Right? So imagine, like going to a restaurant. If the first time you go to that restaurant, you have a great experience, you go. This place is great. And then if you go back a second time and you have a negative experience, you go. That’s a great Oh, not so great. Um, but if your first experience is negative, well, number one, you may not go back there again. That’s that’s probably a primary challenge. But let’s say you do end up going back there, someone forces you to go, and then you end up having a positive experience. You’re still gonna approach it with that first unpleasant experience. It’s still gonna kind of hunt to your final impression of it. Actually, I was just telling someone about this a little bit ago that I have a personal rule that if there’s this place that everybody loves and I go and I don’t like it, I will always give it one more chance, because I don’t know what exactly made it so portable. The first
interesting. Yeah, that might be a good moderator. Two tests. Thought of Alex setting people’s expectations are like, Yeah, maybe some outside influence could be very, very cool idea.
So what? What is it then? About negative stuff that makes it so sticky? What is it about it that makes it looms so large?
That’s a great question and a really difficult question. So I can, you know, summarize a few different potential answers that I’ve, you know, used in my work and that other researchers, um, have advanced to sew like negative devices, this really big, broad thing, as I mentioned. And so the explanation that a lot of people give for, um, this general phenomenon is at a really, like high level. It’s like this really broad type of explanation for this bias. It’s that its evolutionarily adaptive or functional four people to be really sensitive to negatives that if, um, we’re sensitive to negatives were gonna be more likely to survive threats and probably reproduce successfully. So, just like in our evolutionary history, organisms that were tuned to negatives, we’re gonna be more likely to live on and pass on their genes now. In contrast, if you think about, um, you know, ignoring the possibility of something positive in your life. What’s gonna happen if if you you know, if that in that type of situation, um, you know, you might regret something. Maybe you might have this, like, fear of missing out. Um, but probably nothing really bad is gonna happen if you ignore this positive thing. In contrast, if you ignore negative thing like a tiger that’s approaching you, you know, like a Corona virus string. Just he’s a relevant real world example. Probably some bad stuff’s gonna happen like you could die. And so that’s That’s the broadest, highest level explanation that people give now, of course, for specific instances of negativity bias like the negativity, bias and sequential framing effects or reframing effects that that I study there are like lower level explanations. And so this is actually something that we’re working on. Um, and we don’t have an answer that, like, I’m 100% behind yet. But But what we found so far is that it seems to be something cognitive that it’s actually that negative mental representations, or like conceptualization sze are stickier, so it’s more difficult. It’s cognitively more difficult for people to convert from a negatively framed concept to a positively framed one compared to the reverse. And so we’ve done studies where we’ve given people in the same math problem. It’s like 600 minus 100 so they’re like 600 lives at stake just again. It’s very similar to the current Purvis on and, you know, and 100 in one condition can represent the lives that are saved. And in another condition, we say, you know, 600 lives at stake, but, um, 100 lives were lost, and then we ask people to do the conversion. So how many lives were lost or heart? How many lives were saved? The math problems identical. But it takes people longer to solve this problem That requires converting from the negatively friend concept to the positively framed one compared to the reverse. So that’s adjust. Its it might not be something, you know, it might be a cold sort of cognitive process rather than sort of a hot maybe motivational one. Um, but we don’t know a lot more other than I have some very, very new research that we’re writing like today And, um, with some colleagues at cologne. Um, looking at memory. So 11 thought we had his Could this negative stickiness be driven by differences in memory, or could it be something about attention? Um, and we’re not finding using a similar, like sequential paradigm. Um, we’re not finding any differences in memory for, like, the first piece of information or the second piece of information by this this violence order condition. So it suggests that maybe that’s not super surprising because we’re studying this like the first piece of information and the second piece are very close in time. Maybe in the real world, when people get stuck in something negative, there might be differences in memory. I’m not sure because, you know, more time might go go by between, um, framing and reframing. But, um, yeah, so So at least preliminary evidence suggests that it might not be driven by memory. Could My money is on something about attention, Um, or like maybe even a mind wandering or like, you know, the thought that the negative thought keeps coming to your mind. Even
so, it looms larger,
looms larger, and yeah, and four persons.
So I could remember the positives and negatives, but it may just be that I’m choosing to await the negatives. I’m being cautious. So I’m waiting the negatives more than the positives. And so are there, like, individual differences in this? Are there some people who are called them? I don’t know, positivity forward. You just say, like, you know, all I care about is the positives. I’m gonna base my decisions on the positives, and I don’t care what the negatives are.
Yeah, that’s such a great question. So, yeah, I have one paper about age as an individual difference. And actually, we’ve shown that as people grow older, this negativity bias gets smaller and that it might even go away. A surly is age 60 or 65. Um, so and and looking at just our individual date, Of course, there there are individual differences. We haven’t really identified one that’s like clearly driving the effect, um, and and would moderate it other than age so far. But, you know, age is really interesting because they’re important theoretical reasons to expect that to be a moderator. So there’s this theory called socio emotional selectivity theory, which is about how our motivational priorities shift across our lifespan. So what it says is that for young people, they have thes um, long, uh, future time horizons. Right. So they’re gonna prioritize learning new things. And, um, you know, in that type of context, a sensitivity to negatives might be really functional because these people need to survive and order thio reap the benefits of all these new things and people that they’re they’re interacting with and learning about. But as we get older or time horizon shrink. And so we’re gonna prioritize more present focus goals, which tend to be more emotional goals. So we want to just feel good. And when you want to just feel good, um, you’re going to focus more on positives. They’re gonna prioritize positive things. And sure enough, the our data suggests at least that the negativity bias diminishes. We don’t We didn’t quite have enough data to look at whether it would flip into a positivity bias in much older age. But we would expect that
I’ve seen some stuff before connecting negativity bias to risk taking three idea being that that you’re more willing to take risks if you’re not accounting for the negatives or not paying special attention to the possible negatives and one group that would seem especially prone to risk taking behavior would be people in their teenage years or super young adulthood. But that’s a group for which that future longevity future orientation focus would suggest that this group shouldn’t be especially risk taking or have especially weak negativity, bias and to your connection earlier with Corona virus. I’m sure you saw that that video going around of of people on spring break oh, very clearly are willing to take risks and overlook all of the real risks of doing that. So I guess the implication that I’m getting at is that if older adults have a stronger negativity bias, does that also suggest that they’re more prone to risk taking
well, So what we’re finding can’t speak the age moderation can’t really speak to risk right now just because we haven’t have some other work on like risky choice framing. But the current, um, the work that I was talking about isn’t about. That’s a little bit of a different thing. What we do see, um, not looking at a just like we see a negativity bias when people are considering different risky choice frames and risky choice frames. Air just, um, where you know, it’s actually the classic unusual disease. Or it’s called agent disease paradigm to try not to use that word with just a little. But people know what I’m talking about. Where it’s it’s actually I know it’s actually exactly like what we’re going through right now. Is this super interesting for me? You know, there is an outbreak of unusual disease expected to kill, like 600 people on their two programs to combat the disease that are equivalent in what we call expected value. It just means they’re mathematically the same thing, but one is involves no risk. So it’s like, sure number of people will be saved right, 200 people, and then the other one is some sort of probability That’s equivalent mathematically to the other one. And you ask. And it can either be framed positively as like lives saved or the whole problem can be framed negatively. It’s lives lost, and what you see is that when it’s framed negatively that people are more risk seeking, Um, and what what we’ve shown and that that’s like a that’s called the risky choice framing effect. So that’s framing. At one time point, but we do the same thing I described before. So we’ve reframe it in the opposite way. And we also see this negativity bias such that people’s risk preferences don’t change is much when frame switch from negative to positive compared to one frames switch from positive to negative. So, yeah, I can’t really speak to whether that also is moderated by age in this way or Yeah, but, um, I think I would expected Thio if we had those data.
So So the sequential framing is where you’re giving people two scenarios back to Beck. Is that what you’re saying?
So it’s the same scenario framed either positively and negatively or negatively, and then possibly Yeah,
yeah, I just want to pause and and see if because I always get tossed around in what these mean I remember in college, I read I read one of the early pop judgment decision making books and I just couldn’t wrap my head around what these These scenarios I was like 600 lives lost versus So let’s back up. And just maybe we can start with, uh, I don’t even know where to start exactly.
Yeah, much easier to just Let’s not do risk, because risk it is slightly more complicated. Um, so let’s say, um, that, uh, there’s a jobs program. Um, and the goal of the program is to prevent jobs from being lost. So the negative frame of this program could be that 60% of jobs will be lost, and the positive frame could be that 40% of jobs could be saved,
right? And in the end, that’s the same thing
that means the same thing. Yeah, it’s like a glass of water half full or half empty. Yep, So that’s something called a tribute framing frame. A single attribute of an object in mathematically equivalent positive or negative terms, sort of the simplest form of framing. And it’s what most of my work has focused on visits just a more basic way of thinking about violence. Really?
Yeah. So in a case like that, a basic bias accounts would say People prefer which of those frames
so it doesn’t say anything about what? So all of the framing effect is that that that’ll put a gap that that’ll differentiate people’s attitudes about the same object. So when the glass of water is full, they like it more than when the glass of water is described as half empty, and they like it less so. So, but there is not. It’s not that from, like a 50 neutral baseline or whatever that. Actually, um, the negative frame is stronger than the positive frame at a time, one that hasn’t been shown as far as I know. It’s really just that attitudes get pulled apart, um, about the same thing when they’re when they’re initially framed. And then what we show is when it’s reframed that that negative thing sticks more right and influences how much attitudes changed. The attitudes change a lot less when you first saw it. Negative then when you started with the positive.
So basically, you’re getting people to form a negative opinion versus a positive opinion based on the way that you feel things. And then when you reframe that thing. If I had started with a negative opinion based on the way that you described it initially, it’s much harder for me now to see it is something positive. It’s
really hard to change people’s attitudes. That’s exactly right. Yep, when it started out as something negative,
yeah, so let’s get into the weeds. Ah, a little more on and talk about, like, wet violence itself is what is it that actually differentiates Good versus bad, right? It’s such a simple division, but I often get caught up in this idea that, like, what is it actually that tangibly? That’s different between something that we call good and something that we call bad? Right? And on the one hand, you could just say that that brains are built to process value, lots of value is good, less value is bad. And this is just sort of a quirk of how your brain processes information in the environment. So in that way, it’s idiosyncratic. Cried is just one person’s evaluation. But is there anything? Maybe this is weird. Is there anything that tangibly we could say in advance? Is the difference between what’s good and what’s bad? Is there any way to identify something like that?
Yeah, that’s a very, very interesting question that I would probably need to think a lot more about, I’m sure, but they’re I mean, there seems to be a lot of consensus. Let me put it that way, um, over things that are good and bad, like in general, um, with moral attitudes, I think there’s quite a lot of good sense. Is killing someone is bad for almost all cultures and almost all places. Um, you know, most people are happy when they get in a inside when they get an F. So clearly, yeah, I guess the question is like Is not just is that something about, like, the fabric of the way that we’ve evolved? I mean that should I study philosophy?
So you’re the person asking Stephen, I I guess another way to frame where that question was coming from is really just like, Are we justified in making a qualitative distinction between good and bad? Like, is it categorically a different? Or are these just labels that we put on something that actually, in the end, is superfluid? And I was thinking of that because you were talking about some evidence that there’s sort of fundamental differences in the way that the brain attends to our stores or represents negative versus positive information. I was wondering whether that is evidence that we used to say that fundamentally, that these air qualitatively different things that negative and positive are really truly processed as separate things versus the We’ve just learned certain associations with the concept of negative. We’ve put baggage on the word negative that were not necessarily putting on the concept of positive.
Yeah, I mean, also a really wonderful question. Um, I mean, I don’t think about these things as being, you know, so categorically different. Like, I mean, when I asked participants, I talk about it as people really liked this thing really didn’t. But these air like scales and, um, the slider scales, like people are, you know, it’s not categorical, I guess in the way that we measure it and not in the way that we think about it. Um, And in fact, a lot of my work is about how these categories air too simple. And, um, that there’s some other theories that are that are important to consider. So a lot of my works about regulatory focus theory and actually a lot of my work which we haven’t talked about yet is about when we shouldn’t expect a negativity bias when we don’t see it. What are the limits? One of the bounds to its is a large positive elephant to a lot of it, um, and but just, uh, discuss regulatory focus really briefly. It’s It’s the idea that so this negativity, bison, sequential framing that we’ve been talking about seems in my research to be confined to situations where people are thinking about a potential punishment or a loss. And and there are many situations like that, most situations are probably like that. But that isn’t to say that we can’t construe from the very beginning the whole issue that were presented with as something that could be a potential gain or potential reward or in the language of regulatory focus, from a prevention to a promotion type of mindset to think about the issue initially. So in the context of like job policy that could prevent jobs are being lost or it received. That’s really a potential punishment, right, cause you’re going like jobs Lost is your below baseline. Job saved is you’re sort of back at your baseline. What about a policy where they’re these new jobs that could be created above and beyond anything we’ve ever thought of before? And if those don’t materialize them, we’re back at our baseline. So it’s this above baseline and type of situation that I call the gain domain or regulatory focus scholars call like a promotion. Focus should at least theoretically, we should be ableto think in that way. In some context, we found it to be difficult, actually, to get participants to think in that way. Um, but when we’re able to what we see is some situations where people are able thio actually get stuck in positive in the positive frame or at least be evenhanded and assess negatives and positives. Um, more evenly. Yeah.
So what would be something that would get someone stuck in the positives, right. If it’s the gain domain, I’m thinking of something like, um, you know, you tell me that I can get a $1,000,000 if I do something and I go what? How $1,000,000 Like a super gain oriented idea. And then you go, whale, you’re gonna also have to do this thing, this other unpleasant thing in this other unpleasant thing and I go, Yeah, but it’s a it’s a $1,000,000 intuitively that feels like what you’re saying is that basically what you’re getting it?
It’s kind of Yeah, So we would think of like a lottery type of thing, as long as you don’t construe it as, like something you could lose or there’s no actual cost to you. So it may be moderated by, like, the amount of money. Uh, you’re suggesting so like large amounts. What we have found is that if it’s something if it’s unfamiliar novel and like a realty, true gain. So like some sort of, um, new technology to, like, make it easier to chat with your family online or something like that, the shiny new technology it’s like we don’t really know that much about it yet, but it sounds like it could be has the potential to have this giant reward, Um, that that’s when people maybe really attracted to positives and positives may stick with them. This might be why people buy new gadgets, right that come out that, like, claim to do these some huge improvement, a real way that we can advance things or like a new political candidate, might come out who has, you know, is young and has all these great new ideas. We make it really excited so it could be driven just by our excitement and this, um, positivity bias in this context, could push us to discover rewards that exist when we don’t yet. Um, I have a lot of information about the rewards.
Yeah, a lot of this sounds like it’s deviation from a status quo. Uh, there’s the neutral or baseline. That baseline language is what made me think of that and how negative is not status quo. So you can, I guess you could adapt to negative. You can adapt. Yeah, yeah, if there was a lot of it there. But generally, the idea is that negativity is not is not what is expected. So it captures our attention more. And actually, what this reminds me of is this research in moral s I call the moral character moral impression formation. Where there’s this negativity bias there where if I find out that you’ve done 20 ethical, virtuous things you give to charity, you volunteer you you do all sorts of wonderful things that go. Oh, that’s nice. But then I find out one immoral thing about you wanna go, What a monster, Right? So I think that it’s that same idea where we’ve just adapted to this idea that most of the time people are decent human beings but it’s especially unexpected. Were unusual to find out that someone has done something that we would think of as sort of normative Lee Unethical.
Yeah, like Diagnostic City or Yeah, you know how rare things are. All these have been shown to be other potential explanations for negativity, bias and and the the ecology. So the way that our environment is set up, some of my collaborators at Cologne study negativity bias in this way and have, you know, shown that, uh, there’s a lot more positive information in our ecology in our world in our environment than negative information. And so, yeah, there’s a negativity vice because negative things air actually rare. They’re more distinct there. Yeah. Diagnostic.
Yeah, Matt Rockledge has this research on, I think, Ana product reviews. There’s a sort of, ah, dominance of positivity in these reviews. So on Amazon, you know the most reviews. Most products have an average of 4.5 stars or something like that. And so we don’t learn a lot as consumers by looking at the difference between four versus five star reviews. Because, yeah, just that’s what common. Whereas we learn a lot more when we encounter a one star review because that’s that. It just tells us more. We learn more about it because because it’s uncommon. Yeah, unless, like you said, you put people in a very gain oriented frame of mind where all of a sudden now it becomes like, Ooh, this is so much better than I ever imagined.
Yep, exactly So, yeah, setting people’s expectations might be a way for us to study the game domain more because we’re having a little hard time right now, given current events and coming up with these hypothetical scenarios that
so one of the one of the big challenges to come with biased surveillance or where you heading in your work? You talked a little bit about some of the new stuff, but where’s this all going now?
Yeah, um, I have a lot of new It’s stuff that I’m excited about. So one, um, area of work is showing that this isn’t just about framing in sequence. It’s not something about frames in particular. So far, we stayed pretty close to that literature in judgment and decision making and have shown similar patterns of bias. Most of the time, this negativity bias but sometimes, especially in that gain domain, you know, context where things are really novel and sort of exciting. Um, that positivity bias. So I’ve shown this in counterfactual thinking. So, um, when something that’s happened in the past and you’re thinking about it could have been better where it could have been worse. And I would suspect that similar patterns would also play out. You think about things in the future, but there are many other surveillance mental processes like social comparisons that we could study and just sort of see how broad this, Um, this framework is where we where we make violence more complicated and sort of two key ways. And one of them is that we’re looking in sequence right, this positive negative versus negative, positive. So how are people are switching? And then the second is that we’re not just talking about positive and negative. We’re looking at Domaine Two this regulatory focus variable raising their positives and negatives and lost domain and their positives and negatives and the gain domains. Um, so So yes. Oh, counterfactual thinking, um, I have some new work also on ambivalence that you might be interested in. Um, but yeah, it. Ah, you know, it occurred to me and and my collaborator era Schneiter at, um, University of Cologne that, um, you know, if people are seeing positive and negative information and sequence, um, that it would be interesting to see ah, whether there outcomes for ambivalence. So, you know, what we did is we use the same type of paradigm that I described where people rate their attitude toward an issue that’s either framed negative terms, like, you know, a jobs, jobs, lost type of type of scenario, or in positive terms, like job saved. And then everyone sees the same issue reframed in the opposite way, and they read their attitudes again. But now, after that second frame, we ask people how ambivalent they feel. So this is we looked at subjective ambivalence also objective ambivalence. Um, but the interesting results are, you know, it’s the subject of ambivalence is about how conflicted and mixed on decided people feel. And what we’re showing is in those conditions where people’s attitudes change quite a lot where they’re really flexible. So the positive to negative right there, just following along with the current frame. Um, those are the conditions where people end up feeling really ambivalent. Sort of makes some sense, right? Like your, um
because you’re actively tracking the back in the future, actively talking with, yeah, hustling. And
now you’re like, I don’t know anymore. I couldn’t versus when that negativity. But when we see that negative stickiness in the other condition the negative to positive where people didn’t change their attitude very much, they are less ambivalent.
Yeah, you know, it’s
bad. I know. It’s just that it’s fatso, like maybe a potential like, good thing. At least you’re una Vaillant. At least you know your attitude. And it’s resistant at the end of at the end of this. Um, so that’s some new work, Sort of taking this in to the direction of ambivalence. Um, I am also just sort of expanding my work beyond, uh, negativity and positivity biases and studying, um, uncertainty and nudging healthy behaviors in my new postdocs. So more on that to come. But, uh, they’ll definitely be more stuff about positive and negative information, because that’s really, um yeah, night
at the heart of a lot of things.
Yes, it is. Yeah. Are
their applications air applied like one of The things I’m thinking of is, if you think about like, drug commercials, right where they have a whole bunch of information where they say, Oh, our drug is going to cure this problem that you have And then after all of that good stuff they say, Oh, and also, maybe all these horrible things are gonna happen to you as well. Um, eh, So that’s a case where it matters. What order You present this stuff in, Um and so in a broader way, if you were to give advice to people who are in the business of shaping opinions based on what you know about sequential framing or alternative framing surveillance biases tangibly, what lesson might you give?
Yeah. I mean, if you want to convince someone, if if you’re okay with people having a negative attitude towards something, it would be very strong to start with the negative. And we think that is what happens and think like a lot of political campaigns like this might be why Trump was so effective. Just getting this message of, like, fear and, um, you know, really attacking other people initially putting down your opponents are pointing out flaws and other candidates that that’s gonna be you, a really effective way that will stick with people strongly.
Yeah. I mean, there’s a long history of attack ads in politics, and there’s plenty of frustration with that tactic. But according to your your bias stuff, that might be an effective strategy to start set the bar at the negative, and then it makes it harder for your opponent to get out of it.
And if you want to get people stuck in the positive, my advice would be, like, really try to be shiny and bright and new. And, you know, probably Obama did a pretty good job of that. Like hope and change type of message. Um, so I hope we see more of that. I would love to see more campaign’s focus on that, but obviously it’s very difficult to get that right. I think. Well,
I think that’s as hopeful and note as we’re gonna get here. So thank you so much for coming on here. Well, it did, and it was great to hear about all this stuff.
Yeah. Thank you so much for inviting me, so it’s really fun.
All right. That’ll do it for this episode of Opinion Science. Thanks to John for coming on to learn more about her work, check out the show notes for a link to her website, and for more information about the show, visit opinion science podcast dot com, or follow us at Opinion Cy Pod on Twitter or Facebook. And this is a very new show. So if you like this and support what we’re doing, please just take a couple seconds to review us on iTunes and share it on social media. It will really help get the word out. Okay, well, that’s all I’ve got for us this week. We’ll see you next time when we talk more about the science of opinions, but by