There is ample empirical evidence for an asymmetry in the way that adults use positive versus negative information to make sense of their world; specifically, across an array of psychological situations and tasks, adults display a negativity bias, or the propensity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information. This bias is argued to serve critical evolutionarily adaptive functions, but its developmental presence and ontogenetic emergence have never been seriously considered. The authors argue for the existence of the negativity bias in early development and that it is evident especially in research on infant social referencing but also in other developmental domains. They discuss ontogenetic mechanisms underlying the emergence of this bias and explore not only its evolutionary but also its developmental functions and consequences. Throughout, the authors suggest ways to further examine the negativity bias in infants and older children, and they make testable predictions that would help clarify the nature of the negativity bias during early development.
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