What determines whether someone has a one-sided view of the world or perceives both
the negative and positive aspects of something? To understand the factors which determine
the extent to which human judgments are absolute we have to take into account studies
of conscious and non-conscious information processing (Reber, 1993; Underwood, 1996;
Hassin et al., 2005), and implicit and explicit emotions (Zajonc, 1980; Greenwald
and Banaji, 1995; Ohme, 2007), which can be interpreted as evaluative processes of
different types (Reykowski, 1968; Oatley and Jenkins, 1996; Sander and Scherer, 2009).
Understanding human judgment requires a knowledge of psychology and neurobiology (Damasio,
1994; LeDoux, 1996, 2012; Sander et al., 2003; Sander and Scherer, 2009; Armony and
Vuilleumier, 2013), both of which help to explain the conditions in which individuals
make extreme, absolute evaluations and the mechanisms which enable more complex, moderate
and nuanced appraisals.
We argue that models of judgment processes should refer to the dual mind theories
(Epstein, 1990; Chaiken and Trope, 1999; Liberman, 2003; Deutsch and Strack, 2006;
Kahneman, 2011), and emphasize the distinction between affective (automatic) vs. intellectual
(reflective) premises of evaluative appraisals (Jarymowicz and Bar-Tal, 2006; Jarymowicz,
2009; Jarymowicz and Imbir, 2015).
Affective vs. intellectual evaluations
Affect can be viewed as a direct, automatic response to a stimulus which “by-passes
the will” (Gazzaniga, 2011) and influences cognition, evaluation, motivation and behavior
(Zajonc, 1984; Bargh and Chartrand, 1999; Cacioppo and Gardner, 1999; Pessoa, 2008).
Primary affective states (generated at subcortical level) are diffuse and lead to
global, and often extreme, one-sided appraisals (Plutchik, 1980; Zajonc, 1980; Cacioppo
and Berntson, 1994). Moreover, these judgments may be based on implicit, unacknowledged
premises and associated with high subjective certainty (Balas et al., 2012). Unfortunately,
such unquestioned judgments become rigid and resistant to change.
Intellect, the basis of deliberative thinking, enables individuals to reflect in more
or less general terms on reality, the past and the anticipated future, and to develop
and use evaluative concepts, including abstract concepts related to values (e.g.,
equality, justice, and humanism). Although such moral concepts are so complex that
they are never well-defined, reflective cognition can result in the formation of moral
standards, which are then used as points of reference for judgments about reality
(Reykowski, 1989; Krzemionka, 1993; Baumeister et al., 2007). As an individual develops
a capacity for deliberative thinking he or she acquires the ability to apply new types
of evaluative criteria and verbalize judgments based on these criteria; this gives
rise to secondary affective states (Zajonc, 1980; Rolls, 2000). Secondary affect does
not dominate evaluative thinking processes. An individual is able to perceive both
negative and positive elements of a given object and consequently his or her appraisal
will be more nuanced, we will refer to such judgments as “heterogeneous” (e.g., one
might be aware that out-group members have some negative as well as positive qualities).
The concept of evaluative heterogeneity
We posit that the capacity for evaluations based on affect is universal, whilst the
capacity for evaluations based on intellectual premises is less widespread. Judgments
based on affect are effortless, whereas evaluations based on intellectual premises
require conscious attention and deliberative thinking; in other words they require
the evaluator to invest time, energy and cognitive capacity. It follows that there
is considerable individual variation in the relative proportions of affect-based (automatic)
and intellect-based (reflective) evaluations; we refer to an individual's disposition
to base evaluations on intellectual premises as his or her “level of evaluative heterogeneity”
(Jarymowicz, 2008, 2012). Evaluative heterogeneity is defined as the ability to make
nuanced appraisals which take into account both the positive and negative attributes
of an object.
Our studies were based on following assumptions: (A) intellectual/reflective evaluative
activity results in a tendency to connect the evaluation process with a search for
premises on which to base evaluations; (B) this tendency reduces the influence of
irrelevant, affective stimuli on judgments; (C) this reduction in the influence of
affective factors applies to both explicit and implicit evaluative processes.
Our hypothesis and empirical findings are described below. We expected to find a correlation
between evaluative heterogeneity and resistance to the influence of irrelevant affective
factors. The studies considered two correlates: (1) the independence of explicit appraisals
on implicit affective priming and (2) the limits of automatic in-group favoritism.
Measurement of evaluative heterogeneity
Measurement of evaluative heterogeneity was based on the assumption that this disposition
will be reflected in an individual's spontaneous references to the negative as well
as the positive attributes of a given object. In this context “spontaneous” means
unprompted (e.g., by the experimenter); rather than having respondents choose attributes
from a check list we required them to specify the attributes they associated with
a given object by answering an open question.
We decided to use objects that are usually evaluated positively (to avoid overly strong
interference from negative affect). In all the studies mentioned below participants
were asked to list “good and bad aspects of patriotism” (patriotism is typically regarded
as a very positive quality in Poland).
The “Dilemmas and Discussions” technique (Karwowska and Jarymowicz, 2003) involves
presenting respondents with an introduction which points out that some social attitudes
(e.g., to one's country, to migration, abortion, children adoption etc.) are controversial,
and explains that “in this study we are asking young people what they think about
patriotism.” Then respondents are presented with a table consisting of two columns
entitled “Positive aspects of patriotism” and “Negative aspects of patriotism” and
the instruction “Please list as many negative and positive aspects of patriotic attitudes
as possible.” Level of evaluative heterogeneity is indexed as the proportion of a
number of negative attributes to a sum of all generated attributes.
The relationship between evaluative heterogeneity and resistance to the influence
of subliminal affective stimuli
In series of studies we used divers versions of the subliminal affective priming paradigm
(Murphy and Zajonc, 1993). In the classic version of the task participants are asked
to give affective evaluations of unfamiliar, neutral signs (Chinese ideograms) using
a scale ranging from “I like it” to :I don't like it.” All responses are primed by
displaying a neutral or affective subliminal stimulus for several milliseconds before
the sign is presented. The priming stimuli are photographs of human faces showing
neutral, positive (e.g., joyful) or negative (e.g., disgusted) expressions. In version
used by some other authors (Ohme, 2007) participants are presented with Chinese ideograms
which are described as “symbols of human traits” and asked to make an intuitive judgment
as to whether a given ideogram represents a positive or a negative trait. In our modification
the participant had to decide the extent to which a given ideogram represents a trait
characteristic of him or her (Błaszczak and Imbir, 2012). All the data showed that
implicit stimuli affect explicit judgments and behavior; however in all the studies
we observed inter-individual variation in the extent of this influence (Jarymowicz,
2008; Karwowska and Kobylińska, 2014).
Karwowska (2001) introduced an important modification to the affective priming impact
index to distinguish between participants who were more and less resistant to the
influence of priming. The modified index was based on the difference between explicit
appraisals made after negative or positive priming (with faces expressing joy or disgust)
and appraisals made under control conditions (priming with a neutral face). A small
difference between appraisals made after affective and neutral priming indicates that
explicit appraisals are relatively independent of the influence of affective priming.
In several studies level of evaluative heterogeneity was found to be associated with
the relative influence of affective priming, i.e., in individuals with high evaluative
heterogeneity there was a relatively small difference between the explicit appraisals
of neutral objects made following affective and neutral priming (Jarymowicz, 2008).
These data are consistent with the results of experimental studies in which we stimulated
reflective evaluative thinking and then provoked reactions to the subliminal affective
priming (Karwowska and Kobylińska, 2014). The data suggest that the reflective system
may inhibit automatic reactions (Imbir and Jarymowicz, 2013).
The relationship between evaluative heterogeneity and baseless in-group favoritism
In this section we discuss studies which suggest that evaluative heterogeneity is
related to the extent to which social judgments are based on prejudices. We define
a prejudice (Jarymowicz and Bar-Tal, 2006) as a pattern of direct, automatic affective
reactions to an object which influences information processing and can lead to formation
of rigid cognitive schemata, i.e., stereotypes. Links between primary affective states
and cognitive processes—and hence links between prejudices and stereotypes—are usually
very stable. We postulate that changes in these associations may be due to the development
of reflective evaluative standards and hence new approaches to social perception and
evaluation of the world (Jarymowicz and Imbir, 2015).
Several of our empirical studies investigated automatic in-group favoritism and out-group
discrimination (Jarymowicz, 2006, 2008). These studies were based on the assumption
that any sign of social belonging (including subliminal signs) can generate diffuse
affect and thus lead to simplified, absolute, homogeneous evaluations. We expected
that people with high evaluative heterogeneity would be less vulnerable to this kind
of affective influence.
In our research on explicit attitudes we asked participants for their opinions on
diverse social objects, varying how direct the method of assessing opinion was. In
one study, for example, participants were asked questions about the achievements of
Poland and various other non-European countries in several domains where achievement
is difficult to evaluate (such as care for the elderly or provision for gifted children).
Our Polish participants viewed Poland as more successful than other countries. In
another study we asked questions about the rights of ethnic and sexual minorities.
A notable finding was that in all the studies in-group favoritism and aversion to
out-group members were relatively low among participants with relatively high level
of evaluative heterogeneity (Jarymowicz, 2013).
Both the psychological and neurobiological data indicate importance of the distinction
between affective/automatic and intellectual/reflective evaluative systems (Zajonc,
1980; LeDoux, 1996; Jarymowicz et al., 2013; Imbir et al., 2015, 2016; Jarymowicz
and Imbir, 2015). Like other dual mind theories (Epstein, 1990; Deutsch and Strack,
2006; Kahneman, 2011), the concept of dual evaluative systems can explain why an individual's
reactions may vary across time and circumstances. But this concept leads to question
about possible interferences between the two systems; one might ask under what conditions
each system dominates.
The explanations of the “heart” over “mind” domination seem to be clear (Jarymowicz
and Bar-Tal, 2006). We argue (Jarymowicz and Szuster, 2014) that there is a high probability
that “mind” will dominate “heart,” but only in individuals who have developed evaluative
standards through reflective thinking. In particular an individual has to connect
standards based on abstract concepts of good (e.g., humanitarianism) and evil (e.g.,
violence) with concrete, real-life issues and applications (e.g., equal rights; discrimination).
Empirical correlative studies showed that participants who are able to generate referents
of abstract evaluative concepts (like loyalty) tend to display relatively little discrimination
against out-groups (Jarymowicz, 2012).
The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.
Conflict of interest statement
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial
or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.