Prescreening of choice options in 'positive' and 'negative' decision-making tasks

Irwin P. Levin*, Caryn M. Prosansky, Daniel Heller, Brad M. Brunick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on prescreening processes in decision making was extended by manipulating task valence in a series of three experiments. In Experiments 1 and 2, half the subjects had the 'positive' task of screening and then selecting someone to hire for a job and half had the 'negative' task of screening and then selecting someone to fire, where the choice options (worker descriptions) were the same in each task. In Experiment 1 some subjects were instructed to list options they would include for further consideration and some were instructed to list options they would exclude from further consideration. More options were screened out in the inclusion condition than in the exclusion condition and in the firing task than in the hiring task. Subjects in Experiment 2 were allowed to decide for themselves whether to use inclusion or exclusion in screening options. The main results from Experiment 1 were replicated. Also, subjects in the hiring task were more likely than subjects in the firing task to select inclusion as a strategy for prescreening options. In Experiment 3 the positive task involved adding stocks to a portfolio following an unexpected financial gain and the negative task involved disposing of stocks following a financial setback. Again, more options were screened out by subjects selecting the inclusion strategy than by exclusion subjects, but differences between the positive and negative tasks were not found. Results were explained in terms of a 'status quo' bias for adding or deleting options that transcends task differences and a positivity bias in judging people that distinguishes judgments in different task domains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-293
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Inclusion/exclusion
  • Positive and negative decisions
  • Prescreening


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