Explanations of comparative facts: A shift in focus

Daniel Heussen, Silvio Aldrovandi, Petko Kusev, James A. Hampton

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    A comparative fact can be presented in two ways. ‘Among
    white evangelical Christians, Obama had 40% fewer votes
    than McCain.’ or ‘Among white evangelical Christians,
    McCain had 40% more votes than Obama.’ Focusing on why
    Obama had fewer votes than McCain may result in a different
    explanation from focusing on why McCain had more votes
    than Obama, although it is the same fact. Thus what
    determines whether we focus in our explanation on Obama or
    In two studies, we show that people generally focused more
    on the first part of the comparative fact. However, when the
    comparative fact is presented in a negative frame (‘less …
    than’) there was a shift in focus from the first to the second
    part of the fact. For neutral items this moderating effect did
    not occur. The Principle of Lexical Marking (Clark, 1969)
    and Loss Aversion (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) are
    discussed as possible accounts for this shift in focus.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
    Number of pages1721
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 2009


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