Weighting Positive versus Negative Valence: The Fundamental Nature of Asymmetries in Attitude Generalization



When evaluating a novel object or situation, individuals essentially engage in attitude generalization, weighting its resemblance to known positives versus negatives. I will overview a program of research in which individuals’ valence weighting tendencies are assessed by examining how their pre-established attitudes generalize to similar but novel attitude objects. Some individuals show evidence of their positive attitudes generalizing more strongly than their negative attitudes, essentially weighting resemblance to a known positive more heavily than resemblance to a known negative. Others show the reverse tendency. The performance-based measure of such individual differences proves predictive of evaluative reactions to novel stimuli across a wide variety of domains, suggesting the existence of a fundamental individual difference in valence weighting. Its causal influence is demonstrated through experiments in which individuals’ valence weighting proclivities are recalibrated.