When the Dirt Sticks: Negativity in Secondhand Impressions
Coauthor(s): Daniel Ames.
What happens when impressions are passed from person to person? Prior work has identified extremity effects, with bad impressions becoming worse while good ones become better. In contrast, we predict that negativity effects often emerge, with both bad and good initial impressions becoming worse as they are passed along. We draw on research examining negativity biases and social transmission to hypothesize that negative information will be disproportionately likely to be transmitted as impressions are shared. In three studies using real-world and experimentally-controlled initial impressions, we confirm our predictions, finding that secondhand perceivers have worse impressions of targets, regardless of whether targets were seen positively or negatively by firsthand perceivers. We also find that negative information is disproportionately recognized by secondhand perceivers. We reconcile our results with prior work, identify boundary conditions, and highlight new directions for secondhand impression research.
Source: Working paper
Ames, Daniel, and Lara Kammrath. "When the Dirt Sticks: Negativity in Secondhand Impressions." Working paper, Columbia Business School, 2005.