Accentuate The Negative: The Positive Effects Of Negative Acknowledgment

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Psychological Science


Three studies investigated the capacity of negative acknowledgment, the admission of an unfavorable quality, to elicit relatively positive responses. In Study 1, an acknowledgment that a written paragraph was confusing led individuals to rate the paragraph as clearer than they did when no acknowledgment was offered. In Study 2, a foreign speaker was rated as possessing a clearer voice when he acknowledged his strong accent than when he did not. In Study 3, a hypothetical college applicant's acknowledgment of receiving less than stellar high school grades resulted in a more positive evaluation of those grades. The interpersonal risks and benefits of negative acknowledgment as an impression-management strategy are discussed.