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This study attempted to uncover the paradoxical effects of an athlete’s negative publicity based on the theories of negativity bias, fuzzy trace, and processing fluency. The researcher tested a boundary condition in which repeated claims about an athlete’s negative publicity interacted with the temporal delay of consumers’ evaluation, which, in turn, led to a decrease in the adverse effects of negative publicity. The results of two online experiments demonstrated that dividing attention and cognitive resources in order to encode and retrieve various types of information caused the detailed contextual memory of each account of the athlete’s negative publicity to fade over time, leaving behind merely a gist memory of the celebrities. In the current study, infamy turned into fame, and the consumer’s judgment of the athletes became more positive. The current study may help expand existing research paradigms by further developing our theoretical understanding of the negative publicity effects.
Chang is with the School of Kinesiology, College of Education + Human Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.