The "positivity bias" inevaluations of public figures: Evidence against instrument artifacts

Richard R. Lau, David O. Sears, Richard Centers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The "positivity bias" is a term used to describe the consistent favorable evaluation of public figures found in surveys over the past 40 years. This paper explored several possible artifactual explanations for this bias,focusing on the survey instrument itself. Two experiments varied the labeling and ordering of scale endpoints, the affective value of the initial context evaluated, and the presence or absence of a prestigious job title associated with the nameof the public figure. None of the variations produced significantly different levels of positivity than the standard control condition used in each experiment.Richard R. Lau is a graduate student in social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. David O. Sears is Professor of Psychology and Political Science at UCLA. Richard Centers is Professor of Psychology at UCLA. This research was supported in part by Grant #SOC73-09153 A03 from the National Science Foundation to David O. Sears. The authors wish to expess their thanks to Mark Williams, who did most of the coding and checking involved in the survey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-358
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1979
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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