Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research

2014 Edition
| Editors: Alex C. Michalos

Positivity Bias

  • Vera HoorensEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5_2219



Positivity bias may denote three phenomena: a tendency for people to report positive views of reality; a tendency to hold positive expectations, views, and memories; and a tendency to favor positive information in reasoning.


In its most phenomenological and least controversial meaning, positivity bias denotes a tendency for people to judge reality favorably. To the extent that their positive judgments reflect genuinely held positive views, positivity bias may be thought of as the tendency to construe, view, and recall reality flatteringly, including a tendency to approach unknown objects (such as individuals, situations, events, and life in general) with positive rather than with neutral expectations. Positivity bias may also (more controversially) refer to the phenomenon that people favor positive data in information processing. Reflecting this hybrid nature of what may be named “positivity bias,” the subtitle of...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5, 323–370.Google Scholar
  2. Bergsieker, H. B., Leslie, L. M., Constantine, V. S., & Fiske, S. T. (2012). Stereotyping by omission: Eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 1214–1238.Google Scholar
  3. Cummins, R. A., & Nistico, H. (2002). Maintaining life satisfaction: The role of positive cognitive bias. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, 37–69.Google Scholar
  4. Hoorens, V., & Maris, S. (2012). When words speak louder: The effect of verb abstraction on inferences from interpersonal events. Social Cognition, 30, 253–288.Google Scholar
  5. Hoorens, V., Smits, T., & Shepperd, J. (2008). Comparative optimism in the spontaneous generation of future life events. British Journal of Social Psychology, 47, 441–451.Google Scholar
  6. Langer, E. J. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 311–328.Google Scholar
  7. Lench, H. C., & Bench, S. W. (2012). Automatic optimism: Why people assume their futures will be bright. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6, 347–360.Google Scholar
  8. Matlin, M. W., & Stang, D. J. (1978). The Pollyanna principle: Selectivity in language, memory, and thought. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman.Google Scholar
  9. Mezulis, A. H., Abramson, L. Y., Hyde, J. S., & Hankin, B. L. (2004). Is there a universal positivity bias in attribution? A meta-analytic review of individual, developmental, and cultural differences in the self-serving attributional bias. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 711–747.Google Scholar
  10. Peeters, G. (1971). The positive–negative asymmetry: On cognitive consistency and positivity bias. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 455–474.Google Scholar
  11. Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 296–320.Google Scholar
  12. Sears, D. O. (1983). The person-positivity bias. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 233–250.Google Scholar
  13. Skowronski, J. J., & Carlston, D. E. (1989). Negativity and extremity biases in impression formation: A review of explanations. Psychological Bulletin, 105, 131–142.Google Scholar
  14. Taylor, S. E. (1991). Asymmetrical effects of positive and negative events: The mobilization-minimization hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 67–85.Google Scholar
  15. Walker, W. R., Skowronski, J. J., & Thompson, C. P. (2003). Life is pleasant – and memory helps to keep it that way! Review of General Psychology, 7, 203–2010.Google Scholar
  16. Walker, W.R., Vogl, R.J., & Thompson, C.P. (1997). Autobiographical memory: Unpleasantness fades faster than pleasantness over time. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 11, 399–413.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Social and Cultural PsychologyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium