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Happy thoughts: The role of communion in accepting and sharing (mis)beliefs


Altay, Sacha; Majima, Yoshimasa; Mercier, Hugo (2023). Happy thoughts: The role of communion in accepting and sharing (mis)beliefs. British Journal of Social Psychology, 62(4):1672-1692.

Abstract

The negativity bias favours the cultural diffusion of negative beliefs, yet many common (mis)beliefs—naturopathy works, there's a heaven—are positive. Why? People might share ‘happy thoughts’—beliefs that might make others happy—to display their kindness. Five experiments conducted among Japanese and English‐speaking participants (N = 2412) show that: (i) people higher on communion are more likely to believe and share happier beliefs, by contrast with people higher in competence and dominance; (ii) when they want to appear nice and kind, rather than competent and dominant, people avoid sharing sad beliefs, and instead prefer sharing happy beliefs; (iii) sharing happier beliefs instead of sad beliefs leads to being perceived as nicer and kinder; and (iv) sharing happy beliefs instead of sad beliefs fleads to being perceived as less dominant. Happy beliefs could spread, despite a general negativity bias, because they allow their senders to signal kindness.

Abstract

The negativity bias favours the cultural diffusion of negative beliefs, yet many common (mis)beliefs—naturopathy works, there's a heaven—are positive. Why? People might share ‘happy thoughts’—beliefs that might make others happy—to display their kindness. Five experiments conducted among Japanese and English‐speaking participants (N = 2412) show that: (i) people higher on communion are more likely to believe and share happier beliefs, by contrast with people higher in competence and dominance; (ii) when they want to appear nice and kind, rather than competent and dominant, people avoid sharing sad beliefs, and instead prefer sharing happy beliefs; (iii) sharing happier beliefs instead of sad beliefs leads to being perceived as nicer and kinder; and (iv) sharing happy beliefs instead of sad beliefs fleads to being perceived as less dominant. Happy beliefs could spread, despite a general negativity bias, because they allow their senders to signal kindness.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Social Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:beliefs, communion, cultural evolution, happy, misbeliefs, negativity bias, positivity, reputation management
Language:English
Date:October 2023
Deposited On:04 Jan 2024 10:07
Last Modified:31 Mar 2024 01:36
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0144-6665
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12650