Victim sensitivity and the accuracy of social judgments


Recent theorizing on the relation between victim sensitivity and unethical behavior predicts that victim sensitivity is related to an asymmetrical focus on cues associated with untrustworthiness compared to cues associated with trustworthiness. This hypothesis and its consequences for the accuracy of social predictions are investigated in this article. In Study 1, participants rated the trustworthiness of 35 computer-animated faces that differed in their emotional expression. People high in victim sensitivity rated neutral and hostile faces more untrustworthy than people low in victim sensitivity, whereas no such effect was found for friendly faces. In Study 2, participants predicted the cooperativeness of 56 targets on the basis of minimal information. The accuracy of predictions was negatively related to victim sensitivity, and people high in victim sensitivity systematically underestimated targets’ cooperativeness. Thus, the asymmetrical focus on untrustworthiness cues among victim-sensitive individuals seems to impair rather than improve their social judgments.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 975–984