Two experiments were conducted to compare the effects of different styles of verbal criticism (factual vs. counterfactual) on the perceptions of target, source, and quality of the attack. Counterfactual attacks resulted in more negative overall judgment of the target and ratings of the target’s morality than either factual attacks or no attack. Counterfactual attacks were also rated more positively than factual attacks, and the source of the counterfactual attack was rated as being less biased against the target. Regression analyses confirmed that the observed effect on overall judgment was mediated by the perceived bias of the source. The greater effectiveness of counterfactual attacks was moderated by awareness of prior hostility of the source of the attack toward the target.
- counterfactual communication
- criticism, morality, person perception