Negative information weighs more heavily on the brain: the negativity bias in evaluative categorizations

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Oct;75(4):887-900. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.75.4.887.


Negative information tends to influence evaluations more strongly than comparably extreme positive information. To test whether this negativity bias operates at the evaluative categorization stage, the authors recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs), which are more sensitive to the evaluative categorization than the response output stage, as participants viewed positive, negative, and neutral pictures. Results revealed larger amplitude late positive brain potentials during the evaluative categorization of (a) positive and negative stimuli as compared with neutral stimuli and (b) negative as compared with positive stimuli, even though both were equally probable, evaluatively extreme, and arousing. These results provide support for the hypothesis that the negativity bias in affective processing occurs as early as the initial categorization into valence classes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*