Negativity Biases and Political Ideology: A Comparative Test across 17 Countries

Patrick Fournier, Stuart Soroka, Lilach Nir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


There is a considerable body of work across the social sciences suggesting negativity biases in human attentiveness and decision-making. Recent research suggests that individual variation in negativity biases is correlated with political ideology: persons who have stronger physiological reactions to negative stimuli, this work argues, hold more conservative attitudes. However, such results have mostly been encountered in the United States. Does the link between psychophysiological negativity biases and political ideology apply elsewhere? We answer this question with the most extensive cross-national psychophysiological study to date. Respondents across 17 countries and six continents were exposed to negative and positive televised news reports and static images. Sensors tracked participants' skin conductance, and a survey captured their left-right political orientation. Analyses performed at three levels of aggregation - respondent-as-a-case, stimuli-as-a-case, and second-by-second time-series - fail to find strong support for the link between negativity biases and political ideology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)775-791
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Political Science Association 2020.


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