Reactive devaluation: what it is and how it affects the mind and society

Phenomena known as cognitive biases (or cognitive biases) occur quite often in the thinking of human beings, causing the process of that information to be taken in by the senses to be altered so that a distortion, a inconsistent or illogical interpretation of available information.

Reactive devaluation is one of those cognitive biases that commonly occur in the political arena and refers to instances in which supporters of a particular party or ideology tend to devalue a proposition when they know that it was designed by a political party. party opposed to his, whereas if it were proposed by his party, a higher percentage of people would be in favour.

We will see in this article what this so-called reactive devaluation bias consists of. and what were the experiments that allowed this bias to be discovered, as well as we will also see in which contexts it is generally more influential.

    What is reactive devaluation?

    It was researchers Lee Ross and Constance Stillinger who in 1988 proposed the bias known as “reactive devaluation” based on an experiment they had conducted.

    Reactive devaluation is a cognitive bias that most often occurs in the political context, and is based on the fact that politicians, party supporters, or members of a country in social, economic or armed conflict with another country, they have a tendency, which can become unconscious, a devaluing a proposal when they know it was designed by a political party opposed to yours or by the country in conflict with your country.

    In other words, reactive devaluation is a bias that refers to the tendency that some people may have to underestimate proposals that have been crafted by a political party with an ideology opposed to that of their party, especially when that party at that time is being viewed negatively socially or politically for a reason that has sparked controversy. This cognitive bias as well this can create a considerable barrier within the policy when negotiating on any relevant issue.

      Early studies of reactive devaluation

      Stillinger, Ross and their collaborators published their first experiment in reactive devaluation in 1988, in which they asked American pedestrians if they would support a bilateral political program in which measures would be taken to reduce the manufacture of nuclear weapons. When pollsters said the proposal came from US President Ronald Reagan, 90% of those polled supported it or maintained an unbiased position.

      When respondents were told that the proposal to reduce the manufacture of nuclear weapons came from a group of American political analysts, without specifying who it was or what political party they supported, there was also a percentage high number of respondents who were in favor of this position. measurement (about 80%).

      Instead, when respondents were told that this measure to reduce the manufacture of nuclear weapons came from Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, only 44% supported or from a neutral position before this measurement; while 56% thought it would not be favorable to the United States and that it could benefit the Soviet Union, which revealed the reactive devaluation bias.

      There were three studies, related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to analyze the tendency of political antagonists to suspend peace proposals. In these experiments, the researchers exposed the participants in the experiment, all of Israeli descent, to a peace proposal that had in fact been proposed by Israel; while other participants received the same peace proposalbut telling them that it had been proposed by Palestine.

      The end result was that in cases where participants were told the peace proposal was engineered by Israel, they were in favor in a significantly higher percentage of cases than in the group of subjects who were told it was. the proposal had been dreamed up by Palestine.

      These studies, which were conducted on the basis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, serve to demonstrate and deepen the theoretical understanding of this phenomenon linked to the cognitive biases of human thought, reactive devaluation, thus demonstrating the barrier that this bias can create. when resolve conflicts in politics and in the real world around different parts of the world.

      Similar cases, which show a reactive devaluation, it is not uncommon to see them in other countries, such as Spain, where we have seen that on several occasions a political party which, when it was in opposition, had always opposed a policy measure proposed by the government that existed at that time and years later when it is they who govern approve or even propose the same measure, despite the fact that it years ago, they were against another political party to apply it.

        Daily examples

        It is inevitable that everyone faces various conflicts in various areas of our life, so it is very important to have the ability to resolve these disputes cordially, although at the same time it is not easy to cultivate it, so for many people devaluation can be an obstacle to conflict resolution, because if they are unable to listen and be considered objectively, they can find themselves in a prejudicial situation and costly circumstances for both parties.

        Let’s take a hypothetical example to better understand the cognitive bias of reactive devaluation. Imagine the case of some supporters of a political party whom we asked about their opinion of another party wanting to put in place a measure to allocate more money to public health, so that there are more agents that can serve citizens (doctors, psychologists, nurses, etc.). Then we would make the same proposal to other supporters of that same party, but this time telling them that this measure was designed by their own political party.

        Do these supporters have to be in a higher percentage in favor of taking this measure when they think it was proposed by their political party, than in cases where they have been told that a party with a ideology different from yours, we would be faced with an example of reactive devaluation.

        Reactive devaluation It can also be seen in some sports fans, such as football, with the classic debate between who is better, Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. In most cases, Fútbol Club Barcelona fans will say that Messi is the best footballer; while most Real Madrid fans will consider Cristiano Ronaldo the best, and might even discredit the opposing team’s footballer.

        This means that not everyone thinks so and that there are even many who, from a more impartial and perhaps even objective point of view, do not enter into this debate or position themselves in favor of it. one or the other, claiming that both are very good footballers with a prolific run without taking away the merits of either.

        The same goes for politics, where not everyone is unconditionally in favor of a partymany are those who analyze the proposals from a critical and objective point of view, being favorable to the proposals of the parties contrary to what they follow when these seem good for their country.

        These are just a few hypothetical examples where the concept of reactive devaluation influences, which are probably familiar to us, and which can be used to explain in more detail a cognitive bias such as reactive devaluation which can occur quite often in different contexts and among different people. people. .

        Bibliographic references

        • Alcover, CM (2017). Psychological and psychosocial barriers to mediation in conflict resolution in university student settings. Revista Rueda, 2, pp. 57-66.
        • Kahhat, F. (July 19, 2021). Reactive devaluation (or you’ll be right, but I still don’t believe you). American economy.
        • Kahneman, D. (2012). Think fast, think slow. Barcelona: Debate.
        • Maoz, I., Ward, A., Katz, M. and Ross, L. (2002). Reactive devaluation of an “Israeli” vs. “Palestinian” peace proposal. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 46 (4), 515–546. DOI:
        • Ross, L. (1995). Reactive devaluation in negotiation and conflict resolution. In K. Arrow, R. Mnookin, L. Ross, Amos Tversky, and RB Wilson (eds.). Obstacles to conflict resolution. New York: WW Norton & Co.
        • Ross, L. & Stillinger, CA (1988). “Psychological Barriers to Conflict Resolution”, Stanford Center on Conflict and Negotiation, Stanford University, p. 4.
        • The Decision Lab (nd). Why is negotiation so difficult? The decision lab.

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