Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology edition:11 location:Las Vegas, USA date:27-30 January 2010
When people say that two groups (X and Y) differ, they may say that group X possesses a characteristic more than group Y or that group Y possesses the characteristic less than group X. These descriptions are logically equivalent: If that X possesses a characteristic more than Y, Y possesses it less than X. We examined whether (X > Y) and (Y < X) are also psychologically equivalent. In Study 1 (N = 302), participants filled out a survey consisting of comparative statements about men and women. They agreed more with (X > Y) statements than with (Y < X) statements, regardless of the valence of the characteristics being described or the stereotype-consistency of the statements. In Study 2 (N = 100), participants responded more favorably to a newspaper article comparing younger and older employees and including (X > Y) statements than to a newspaper article including (Y < X) statements. Participants in Study 3 (N = 216) freely listed gender differences. They listed more desirable characteristics when thinking of traits that one gender possessed more than the other than when thinking of traits that one gender possessed less than the other. Finally, Study 4 (N = 104) suggests that the relatively unfavorably responses to (Y < X) statements may be due to the particularly unfavorable view of at least one of the groups being compared than these statements communicate. Implications of the ‘more is better than less’ phenomenon for effective verbal communication, impression management and questionnaire design are discussed.