Information favorability : Explanations of negativity

Date

1975

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Abstract

A consistent finding in both the employment interviewing and impression formation literature is that unfavorable information receives a greater weight in decision making than does favorable information. Several explanations have been offered as causes of this differential weighting. The present study investigated the two explanations that: (a) negative information is perceived as deviant from the social norm of expected positive behavior and therefore has greater impact; and (b) unfavorable information is perceived as relevant in ambiguous situations, and therefore has greater influence; negative information receives less weight as it becomes irrelevant to the evaluation task. The present design consisted of favorability (favorable- unfavorable) by normativity (normative-deviant) by relevancy (relevant-irrelevant) conditions in which 112 students were randomly assigned to the eight conditions. Favorability consisted of a high or low math grade; normativity consisted of high or low grades of others; and relevancy consisted of two job descriptions identical except that one required math abilities while the other did not. Subjects listened to an audio tape recorded interview for the job of laboratory assistant, and evaluated the applicant. Based on the results, several major conclusions were drawn: 1. Judges evaluated information which deviates from the social norms more extremely than information which is normative. 2. Judges responded to unfavorable information which was relevant by rating the applicant lower than when the same information was irrelevant. 3. Judges responded to favorable information by rating the applicant high regardless of the relevancy of the information. 4. Judges were relatively- confident of their evaluations of the applicant regardless of the favorability, normativity, or relevancy of the information. Judges tended to be slightly more confident when their evaluations of the applicant deviated from neutral. 5. Judges rated other applicant abilities higher following favorable math performance which deviated from the norm.

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Keywords

Negativity, Perceptions

Citation