People who tend to experience mixed feelings are less likely to fall prey to two common cognitive biases, according to new research published in the British Journal of Social Psychology. The findings indicate that being able to simultaneously see both the positive and negative sides of things has some psychological benefits.
“I think we live in a time where there is a lot of emphasis on ‘strong’ opinions and people who are very ‘certain’ about their stances, leading to division and polarization,” said study author Iris K. Schneider, a professor of social and economic cognition at the University of Cologne.
“There seems to be very little room for the fact that many important issues are actually multi-faceted, with both positive and negative sides to them. Indeed, there is a little bit of bias against being ambivalent because it is seen as indecisive and uncertain. I believe that this is not justified and that there are benefits to being ambivalent because it provides a broader, more realistic view of the world.”
In four studies, Schneider and her colleagues examined the relationship between ambivalence and two cognitive biases. Two studies examined correspondence bias, also known as the fundamental attribution error, which describes the tendency to over-emphasize personality-based rather than situational explanations for another’s behavior. The two other studies examined self‐serving bias, meaning the tendency to attribute one’s successes to internal factors and one’s failures to external factors.
All the studies, which included 1,832 participants in total, measured ambivalence