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Commonsense reasoning predicts that people prefer hearing bad news before good news rather than the reverse. In two role-playing experiments, subjects were asked if they preferred to hear good news/bad news or bad news/good news. In a third experiment, subjects believed they would be receiving good and bad information about themselves from a personality, social sensitivity, or intelligence test. Results from all three studies showed that subjects overwhelmingly preferred to hear bad news first. Two possible interpretations of the results were offered. One interpretation derived from the gain-loss phenomenon in interpersonal attraction and the other from Helson's adaptation-level theory.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1981

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