Preferences for expressing preferences: People prefer finer evaluative distinctions for liked than disliked objects Academic Article uri icon


  • Past research showed that people draw finer categorical distinctions for liked than disliked objects, such that a wine lover, for example, sees greater detail and nuance among types of wine than does a non-lover. In the present research, a similar pattern was found in evaluative categorization (i.e., distinguishing between "somewhat liked" vs. "liked" vs. "greatly liked" etc.). Across 5 experiments, respondents used finer evaluative distinctions (operationalized as more versus fewer response options in a rating scale) when conveying attitudes about liked versus disliked items. This effect extended to the level of mental representation and was moderated by need for cognition, indicating the key role of elaboration (people elaborate more on liked vs. disliked objects). These findings imply the potential usefulness of unbalanced rating scales (i.e., containing more scale points on the positive than negative side) so that respondents may better express the nuances of their attitudes. 2013 Elsevier Inc.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

altmetric score

  • 6.35

author list (cited authors)

  • Smallman, R., Becker, B., & Roese, N. J.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Smallman, Rachel||Becker, Brittney||Roese, Neal J

publication date

  • January 2014