Shall I compare thee to a…: Antecedents and consequences of group comparisons, comparative frames and comparative formats
Karl-Andrew Woltin (1) and Vera Hoorens (2)
(1) UCLouvain; (2) KU Leuven
This symposium brings together research on antecedents and consequences of comparisons from various perspectives: relative comparisons between groups, comparative formats, and comparative frames. It highlights how variations in comparison observer-target relations and comparative communications impact important variables (e.g., perceived truth) and how social-structural factors (e.g., power differences) can increase comparative biases. Four presentations will each be followed by a short question session, with a general final discussion (Vera Hoorens). From a political psychology perspective, the first presentation’s studies use a comparison paradigm to prime differences in the perception of the level of democracy in participants’ political system to investigate effects on conspiracy mentality and related variables (e.g., trust). The second presentation demonstrates that wording claims about social groups in an explicitly comparative format (vs. leaving the comparison implicit) reduces the claims’ perceived truth and social acceptability. This comparative format effect holds for positive, but not for negative claims, and is mediated by the perceived positivity of the claims. The third presentation shows that truth judgments of claims about social groups depend on the groups being ingroups or outgroups. Varying with specific groups involved, and demonstrating ingroup bias, positive (negative) ingroup claims are more (less) likely judged as true than comparable outgroup claims. The fourth presentation shows that high compared to low social power enhances the more-less asymmetry in the evaluation of comparative information. Participants high in social power like more, agree more with, and consider more likely to be true information framed in “more than” compared to “less than” terms.
Speaker 1: Democracy – a relative matter? Comparisons to other countries’ political systems affect perceptions of democracy
Pit Klein (1) and Olivier Klein (1)
Consequences of belief in conspiracy theories have been a popular subject in political psychology research for a while now. In this line of research, we examine if conspiracy mentality can also be a consequence of the evaluation of the political system one lives in. Two studies, which use different comparative paradigms to examine the link between perception of democracy and conspiracy mentality, will be presented. In a first online study, French and Belgian participants had to read a description of the political system of a very (un)democratic country (i.e. Norway vs. China). After having explicitly been asked to assess the level of democracy of their country of residence in comparison to the description just read, scales evaluating conspiracy mentality and institutional trust were presented. We found an effect of the experimental manipulation on evaluation of democracy, but not on conspiracy mentality. Meanwhile, correlations between evaluation of democracy, institutional trust and conspiracy mentality were significant. In the follow-up study, conducted on first-year undergraduates in order to better understand the before-mentioned correlations, we used a repeated measures design including an implicit comparison. In a first step, participants read the description of a very (un)democratic imaginary country. We then asked them to take the perspective of a citizen of that country while assessing its level of democracy and responding to several scales measuring conspiracy mentality and other related variables (e.g. political powerlessness). In a second step, participants had to take up their own perspective in order to answer the same battery of questions again, this time concerning their country of residence.
Speaker 2: Comparison is the thief of truth? Explicitly comparative claims about
social groups seem less true and socially acceptable than superficially non-comparative claims
social groups seem less true and socially acceptable than superficially non-comparative claims
Alexandra Lux (1), Susanne Bruckmüller (2) and Vera Hoorens (1)
(1) KU Leuven; (2) FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
People prefer statements upholding the social norm not to speak evil (Kervyn, Bergsieker, & Fiske, 2012). For example, observers tend to tolerate braggers that make non-comparative statements (“I am good”), but denounce comparative braggers (“I am better than others”) because comparative bragging suggests that others are not so good (Hoorens et al., 2017). It is unclear, however, if observers’ appraisal of comparative claims about social groups (rather than about the self) also depends on whether these claims involve an explicit (vs. implicit) intergroup comparison. We therefore examined if comparative format influences the perceived truth and social acceptability of claims about gender and age groups. Participants in an online experiment (N = 328) saw stereotypical or counter-stereotypical claims that either (a) compared groups (e.g., “Men are braver than women”) or (b) described one group (e.g., “Men are brave”) on either positive or negative traits. As expected, participants found claims less true and less socially acceptable when they were explicitly (vs. implicitly) comparative. This comparative format effect held for both stereotypical and counter-stereotypical messages and for positive, but not for negative claims, and was indeed mediated by the perceived positivity of the claims. These findings have implications for the manner in which stereotypes are being communicated and for successful stereotype change through verbal messages. They indeed show that the social norm about what is appropriate to say does not only affect the perception of the sender but reaches all the way to observers’ perceptions of the claim’s truth itself.
Speaker 3: It is different when it’s about us - Truth judgments of claims about social groups depend on group membership
Yujing Liang (1), Alexandra Lux (1) and Vera Hoorens (1)
(1) KU Leuven
People have a pervasive tendency to evaluate their ingroups more favourably than outgroups (Hewstone et al., 2002). Previous studies on such intergroup bias typically focused on explicit assessments, such as allocation tasks (e.g., Ben-Ner et al., 2009). However, few studies have examined the intergroup bias implicitly, and even fewer have examined the implicit bias on people’s truth perception. In this study, male and female participants (N=328) judged the truth value of claims that ascribed positive and negative characteristics to men and women. The claims were either stereotypical or counter-stereotypical and either explicitly comparative (“Men have a better sense of humor than women”) or implicitly comparative (“Men have a good sense of humor”). As expected, participants’ group membership biased their truth ratings. Participants rated positive claims as truer than negative claims if the claims were about their gender but not if they were about the other gender. Both men and women rated positive claims about their gender as more true than positive claims about the other gender. In addition women, but not men, rated negative claims about their gender as less true than negative claims about the other gender. Showing the generality of this ingroup bias in truth judgments, the bias occurred regardless of the claims’ comparative format and stereotype consistency. The perception of truth, which many people believe is a function of a message’s content alone, also seems to depend on the relationship between the message and the beholder.
Speaker 4: With power “more is more”: Comparative framing shapes judgments of the powerful
Karl-Andrew Woltin (1) and Ana Guinote (2)
(1) UCLouvain; (2) University College London, UK
Human judgments are inherently comparative and often based on quantitative dimensions. The current research demonstrates that a ubiquitous social-structural factor, social power, increases biases in such comparisons, in line with research showing power facilitates the reliance on accessible and heuristic cues. Across four studies, powerholders liked more, agreed more with and considered more likely to be true “more than” compared to “less than” information. Specifically, managers (vs. employees) evaluated more favourably articles involving “more than” rather than “less than” statements comparing two allergy medicines through a description of their strengths and weaknesses (Study 1; N=233). People’s chronic sense of power was positively associated with, and induced high (vs. low) power increased, agreement with funding options after reading “more than” rather than “less than” comparisons regarding arguments for funding the performing versus the visual arts (Studies 2A/2B; Ns=149/208). Finally, induced high power (vs. control and low power) led to believing that fictitious gender differences framed in “more than” rather than in “less than” terms were more likely to be true (Study 3; N=152). The findings replicate previous work (Hoorens & Bruckmüller, 2015) and suggest that powerholders’ decisions based on comparative information are especially prone to the more-less judgmental heuristic resulting in asymmetry (favouring “more than” rather than “less than” statements). They are in line with approaches positing that power increases reliance on subjective experiences, including ease of information processing and the use of heuristics in judgment and decision-making. Implications for other comparative processes impacted by power are discussed.