Article | Journal of Experimental Social Psychology | March 1983

Brilliant but Cruel: Perceptions of Negative Evaluators

by T. M. Amabile


Using edited excerpts from actual negative and positive book reviews, this research examined the hypothesis that negative evaluators of intellectual products will be perceived as more intelligent than positive evaluators. The results strongly supported the hypothesis. Negative reviewers were perceived as more intelligent, competent, and expert than positive reviewers, even when the content of the positive review was independently judged as being of higher quality and greater forcefulness. At the same time, in accord with previous research, negative reviewers were perceived as significantly less likable than positive reviewers. The results on intelligence ratings are seen as bolstering the self-presentational explanation of the tendency shown by intellectually insecure individuals to be negatively critical. The present methodology is contrasted to that of previous research which obtained apparently contradictory results.

Keywords: Social Psychology; Situation or Environment; Performance Evaluation; Perception; Status and Position; Attitudes; Prejudice and Bias; Power and Influence;


Amabile, T. M. "Brilliant but Cruel: Perceptions of Negative Evaluators." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 19 (March 1983): 146–156. (Reprinted in: E. Aronson (Ed.) (1984), Readings about the social animal (3rd. ed.). San Francisco: Freeman.)