Differential weighting of stimulus information as a function of positive and negative behavioral orientations

Mirjafari, Ahmad
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Individuals tend to differ in the way they interpret or evaluate an external stimulus event. A review of some previous theoretical and empirical psychological literature leads one to conclude that the observed differences seem basically to vary along a dimension of positive-negative weight or valence. In other words, some people tend to manifest a greater perceptual propensity to positive rather than negative stimulus attributes, while others exhibit a greater perceptual sensitivity to negative rather than positive stimulus aspects. It is conceptualized, presently, that such individual differences reflect basically differential exposure to positive and negative contingencies of reinforcements, respectively, in the course of social development. Hence, individuals could be differentiated along a continuum of positive-negative behavioral orientation. Based on this analysis, it is concluded that, (a) positive orientation would result in a greater evaluation of positive rather than negative stimulus attribute; whereas, (b) negative orientation would lead to a greater weighting of negative rather than positive attribute of the same stimulus; and finally, (c) that negative orientation, in comparison to positive orientation, would result in greater evaluation of both positive and negative aspects of the same given stimulus input. A study is reported in which two groups of positively and negatively oriented subjects (Ns = 32, 28, respectively) evaluated two sets of equally weighted positive and negative stimuli for purposes of testing the proposed hypotheses. The subjects, male and female undergraduate students, were selected from an original subject pool of 148 based on their differential responding on three different scales specifically developed to determine their relative position on the positive-negative orientation continuum. The positive and negative stimuli were personality trait descriptions coming from Anderson's (1968) norms. Their selection was controlled for influence of behavior domain by being opposite in meaning. Further, they were of equal-polarity, or approximately so, from the scale midpoint in terms of mean likability and meaningfulness values as well as reported standard deviations. The results confirmed the first two predictions. On the third, although the negative group evaluated both the positive and negative attributes higher than the positive group, only the difference on the negative attributes reached statistical significance. The subjects, in addition, completed Rotter's (1966) I-E scale, and Christie's (1970) scale of Machiavellianism. Again, as expected, negative subjects scored significantly higher in direction of externality and Machiavellianism. In evaluating the results some further theoretical and methodological notes are taken into consideration concerning the proposed behavioral dichotomies and their expected differential response propensities. Finally, some observations on possible stability and inclusiveness of the positive and negative orientations are briefly discussed.
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1978.
Bibliography: leaves 116-126.
viii, 126 leaves
Personality assessment, Trait intercorrelations, Social perception
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Psychology; no. 1158
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