Tuesday Seminar – 9 March

The Shadow of Confucianism: Traditional Values Condition the Negativity Bias among East Asians

Baowen Liang (Université de Montréal)

The negativity bias theory contends that people pay more attention to negative than to positive information. It is argued that the bias is a consequence of risk-aversion that developed through evolution and is therefore a part of human nature. In this paper, I challenge this dominant claim, by emphasizing the relevance of cultural values in understanding the presence and strength of the negativity bias. Using data from the World Value Survey, I demonstrate that negativity in political judgment is prevalent in the Western context (Europe, Oceania and America), but no such phenomenon is observed in Asia and Africa. To explain this discrepancy, I focus on the East Asian case and explore how regional cultural heritage may impact citizens’ cognitive bias towards negativity. An analysis of the Asian Barometer data shows that Confucianist values significantly reduce people’s negativity in political impressions. In addition, I find that Confucianism moderates how citizens resort to negative and positive government performance considerations when they express regime support. These results question the generalizability of judgment asymmetry outside the Western context, and advocate for an inclusion of cultural variables in future studies on the topic.

Contact Semih Çakır if you would like to participate in the seminar.

This content has been updated on 4 March 2021 at 10 h 50 min.