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: group comparisons, 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). The first presentation investigated the transmission of asymmetrical framing of gender differences, which both reflect and reinforce power and status differences. It shows that the focus of a description of gender inequalities affects the focus of subsequent communication regarding such differences. 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
Maike Braun (1), Susanne Bruckmüller (1) and Sarah Martiny (2)
(1) FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany; (2) UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Norway
Asymmetrical framing of gender differences – in terms of how women differ from men rather than vice versa – reflects existing power and status differences. At the same time, such framing can subtly reinforce them. We investigated the transmission of these asymmetrical framings in lay communication. Based on existing serial reproduction paradigms, we developed a new serial communication paradigm. This allowed us to investigate the transmission of framings of gender differences in communication chains. To this end, in all studies participants freely communicated their own thoughts. Participants in wave 1 (N=86) read logically equivalent descriptive texts about either women being underrepresented or of men being overrepresented in leadership. They then explained this difference in gender representation in their own words, with their explanations being recorded. Wave 2 participants (N=208) read explanations from wave 1 and again stated their own explanations afterwards. Finally, wave 3 participants (N=199) read explanations from wave 2 before giving their own explanation. Results suggest that the focus of an initial description does affect further communication about gender inequality, even for people who only read reactions to this initial description. Particularly the more common focus on women was transmitted from wave 1 to wave 2, matching previous findings on the transmission of stereotype-consistent versus inconsistent information. We did not, however, find transmission of a focus on women to wave 3.
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), Ana Guinote (2) and Catia Teixeira (3)
(1) UCLouvain; (2) University College London, UK; (3) University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Human judgments are inherently comparative. At the same time, responses to comparative information are biased, with “more than” rather than “less than” framed comparisons being favored (i.e., the fluency based more-less asymmetry; Hoorens & Bruckmüller, 2015). The current research investigated whether a ubiquitous social-structural factor – social power – impacts this bias. In an initial study, 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 1; N=152). In line with recent recommendations (e.g., Kenny & Judd, 2019), the results of several smaller studies were meta-analyzed to allow gauging a more precise estimate of the real effect size of the phenomenon, independent of heterogeneity in effects and operationalizations. In these studies, people’s chronic sense of power was positively associated with, and induced high (vs. low) power increased, agreement with funding decisions after reading “more than” rather than “less than” comparisons in arguments about funding different art forms (Studies 2A/2B; N=149/208). Also, managers (vs. employees) evaluated more positively articles involving “more than” rather than “less than” statements comparing allergy medicines (Study 3; N=233). Meta-analytic findings indicate a replication of the more-less asymmetry and that it indeed is exacerbated by power. This dovetails 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.