Influence of Emotionally Charged Information on Category-Based Induction

Jennifer Zhu, Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Categories help us make predictions, or inductions, about new objects. However, we cannot always be certain that a novel object belongs to the category we are using to make predictions. In such cases, people should use multiple categories to make inductions. Past research finds that people often use only the most likely category to make inductions, even if it is not certain. In two experiments, subjects read stories and answered questions about items whose categorization was uncertain. In Experiment 1, the less likely category was either emotionally neutral or dangerous (emotionally charged or likely to pose a threat). Subjects used multiple categories in induction when one of the categories was dangerous but not when they were all neutral. In Experiment 2, the most likely category was dangerous. Here, people used multiple categories, but there was also an effect of avoidance, in which people denied that dangerous categories were the most likely. The attention-grabbing power of dangerous categories may be balanced by a higher-level strategy to reject them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54286
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 29 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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