Reactive devaluation

What is it?

Reactive devaluation is a cognitive bias where individuals tend to undervalue proposals or ideas solely because they come from individuals or groups they have negative opinions of or are in conflict with. This bias can hinder negotiations, decision-making, and conflict resolution by causing parties to dismiss potentially beneficial proposals from disliked sources. It is rooted in negative social and emotional perceptions of the source and can reinforce confirmation bias. Overcoming reactive devaluation often requires building trust, improving communication, and finding ways to present proposals in a manner that reduces their association with the disliked party.

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How it relates to disinformation?

Skepticism Toward Corrective Information: When individuals encounter corrective information or fact-checks that challenge their preexisting beliefs or disinformation they've accepted, they may apply reactive devaluation. If the corrective information is perceived as coming from a source they distrust or view as an adversary (e.g., a media outlet or fact-checking organization they dislike), they may dismiss it or devalue its credibility.

Partisan Bias in Assessing Information: In a polarized information environment, people may apply reactive devaluation to information originating from sources affiliated with opposing political or ideological groups. They may automatically devalue information that contradicts their own beliefs or aligns with the beliefs of the opposing group.

Influencing Information Spread: Disinformation campaigns can exploit reactive devaluation by disseminating false information through sources or channels that are likely to be distrusted by the target audience's in-group. This can make it more difficult for individuals to critically evaluate and reject false information from sources they are predisposed to distrust.

Distrust of Fact-Checking: In the context of fact-checking and debunking efforts, individuals may apply reactive devaluation to fact-checkers or organizations that are perceived as biased or partisan. This can hinder the acceptance of fact-checked information and perpetuate the spread of disinformation.

Impact on Correcting Misinformation: When attempting to correct misinformation or disinformation, communicators may face challenges if they are associated with an out-group or perceived as adversaries. People may reactively devalue the corrective information, making it less effective.

What can I do about Reactive devaluation?

  1. Self-Reflection and Awareness: Recognize your own biases and potential for reactive devaluation. Be aware of situations where you might dismiss information based on the source rather than the content.
  2. Seek Common Ground: Focus on shared values and common goals when communicating with individuals or groups who may be inclined to reactively devalue your message. Highlight areas of agreement before addressing areas of disagreement.
  3. Build Trust: Work to establish trust with your audience or interlocutors. Trust can reduce the tendency to reactively devalue information from a source perceived as untrustworthy.
  4. Frame Messages Carefully: Present information in a neutral, non-confrontational manner. Avoid using language or framing that triggers defensive reactions. Focus on facts and evidence.
  5. Highlight Common Values and Goals: Emphasize shared values, goals, or concerns that both parties can agree upon. This can create a sense of unity and reduce the perception of conflict.
  6. Respectful and Active Listening: Listen actively to the concerns and viewpoints of others. Show respect for their perspective, even if you disagree. This can foster a more receptive environment for communication.

Suggested use in training

Assign participants to take on the perspective of individuals from opposing or disliked groups. Encourage them to express the beliefs and concerns of those perspectives in a structured discussion. This helps participants recognize the human element behind different viewpoints.

Have participants take on the roles of individuals from opposing groups. They must argue for positions they personally disagree with, encouraging them to understand and articulate opposing viewpoints.

Present participants with complex challenges or puzzles that require collaboration and joint problem-solving. Emphasize the benefits of working together to achieve common goals.