We will work harder to find good news

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —May 19, 2006
Filed in Communication, News

Bad news travels fast and some argue that we learn best from our mistakes, but psychological research shows we will work harder, or a least wait longer, to receive good news.

Two psychologists, Peter Ditto and David Lopez, told subjects that they were being tested for a dangerous enzyme deficiency. Subjects placed a drop of saliva on a test strip and waited to see if it turned green. Some subjects were told that the strip would turn green if they had the deficiency, and others were told that the strip would turn green if they did not. In fact, the strip was just an ordinary piece of paper that never changed color.

So how long did subjects stare at the strip before accepting its conclusion? Those who were hoping to see the strip turn green waited a lot longer than those who were hoping not to. Good news may travel slowly, but people are willing to wait for it to arrive.

[via Decision Science News referring to a New York Times Op Ed]

Reference: Motivated Skepticism: Use of Differential Decision Criteria for Preferred and Nonpreferred Conclusions. Peter H. Ditto and David F. Lopez. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1992, Vol. 63, No. 4, 568-584.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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