Attention and weight in person perception: The impact of negative and extreme behavior

Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1088 Scopus citations


Analyzed the social perception process to determine whether selectivity of available stimuli is based on the informativeness of person attributes, the properties of which are the evaluative extremity (distance from the scale midpoint) and the evaluative valence (positive or negative). In a preliminary scaling study and a main weighting study, 126 undergraduates independently rated the likability of the 16 stimuli persons portrayed on slides. Negativity and extremity were manipulated on the slides across 2 behavioral dimensions: sociability and civic activism. Ss saw 2 prescaled behavior photographs for each stimulus person and controlled a slide changer switch, providing a measure of attention as looking time. Likability ratings provided a measure of relative weight derived from N. H. Anderson's (1968) information integration model. Results show that Ss preferentially weighted behaviors that were extreme or negative, and the behavioral measure of attention (looking time) replicated the predicted pattern. (58 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-906
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1980

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • negativity & extremity of stimulus person's behavior, weighting & attention in social perception, college students


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