What is the word for influencing others' decisions and opinions in a negative way?

In other words, what is the best choice to fill the blank in the following example:

To avoid -----, the comments are not visible for the participants until the end of the session.

  • 1
    The best word that would fit in the blank may actually be influencing. Jan 11, 2017 at 15:29
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    Biasing, skewing, coloring, influencing, and so on (a thesaurus will help).
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:29
  • @DanBron, Biasing was my first choice, but I'm looking for a better and less heard choice. Searching couldn't help, by the way!
    – Eilia
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:33
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    @Eilia Why didn't searching help? I just googled bias synonyms, and immediately got this list of synonyms for the verb sense: prejudice, influence, color, sway, weight, predispose; distort, skew, slant. What's wrong with those?
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:37
  • 1
    I think it is better to use "To collect unbiased data/opinion" sounds more idiomatic than using "To avoid..." In what context will you use the sentence?
    – user140086
    Jan 11, 2017 at 16:38

10 Answers 10


From Oxford living Dictionaries


[WITH OBJECT] Give rise to prejudice in (someone); make biased:

‘the statement might prejudice the jury’

More example sentences from OLD

‘The smell of antiseptic and the fear of injections prejudiced me against him then, but he was the most important person in our village.’

‘There are very many legal things I can think of that would prejudice me against a person more than smoking.’

Your sentence:

To avoid prejudicing the participants, the comments will not be visible until the end of the session.

Synonyms: bias, influence, sway, predispose, make biased, make partial, make partisan, colour, poison, jaundice, warp, twist, slant, distort


How about bias?


bias: a systematic distortion of a statistical result due to a factor not allowed for in its derivation

Your example:

To avoid bias, the comments are not visible for the participants until the end of the session.

Making comments available ahead of time has the potential to distort the views of the participants when what you want is their own personal unbiased feedback.


You may be looking for manipulation - (negatively) influencing opinions to serve one's own (often selfish) interests.

To avoid manipulation (of individual opinions), the comments are not visible for the participants until the end of the session.


manipulate verb
3 : to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one's purpose

The editorial was a blatant attempt to manipulate public opinion.


mental contamination

Contamination: The act or process of contaminating; pollution; defilement; taint; also, that which contaminates; The process of making a material or surface unclean or unsuited for its intended purpose, usually by the addition or attachment of undesirable foreign substances.


  • 1
    @NVZ, thank you for quietly guiding me in my correctness on citations. I do need the help, being as excruciatingly new as I am. Very grateful...
    – Laurent R.
    Jan 16, 2017 at 0:13

I submit that a good choice is not one word but two:

To avoid inhibiting discussion, the comments are not visible for the participants until the end of the session.

  • 1
    @DarshanBaral - Curse those dyslexic fingers. Thanks. Jan 11, 2017 at 21:04


googles definition

dis·trac·tion dəˈstrakSH(ə)n/

distraction; plural noun: distractions

1) a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.


"the company found passenger travel a distraction from the main business of moving freight"

synonyms: diversion, interruption, disturbance, interference, hindrance

"a distraction from the real issues"

To use it in your sentence:

To avoid [distraction], the comments are not visible for the participants until the end of the session.


I suggest there is no such word.

Any of the answers or comments here before might influence any opinion but not one word says anything about specifically negative influence.

Even 'misguidance' and 'disinformation' are simply tools of dishonesty which could be used either way, including to positively influence an opinion.

The questions seems a lot like asking whether a gun could negatively kill someone, but not positively.


I tried to absorb the vibe of what you're trying to say, and here's what I came up with:

limit participants' thinking

But you wanted something more on the esoteric side, I think, so here's a fun synonym for limit:

circumscribe participants' thinking

circumscribe (with object): Restrict (something) within limits: ‘the minister's powers are circumscribed both by tradition and the organization of local government’


Your sentence:

To avoid circumscribing participants' thinking, the comments are not visible for the participants until the end of the session.

This means that reading the comments prematurely would hold people back from thinking deeply about the issues on their own. Circumscribe is also used in geometry (draw a figure around another, touching it at points but not cutting it -- Oxford again). Exposing the comments prematurely would put a fence around some ideas in the participants' heads. But you want their thinking to be able to move freely around, without the fence.


Corruption is the nice blanket term. But the way that word is used 99% of the time will make that not ideal. Corrupting is also an option.

Vitiation doesn't really work but it sort of does. Most people probably wont know what it means off hand, though.

Subvert isn't ideal either.


In this instance what coercion would be directly saying is that the manner in which the opinions would be changed would be untraditional and not ideal for the victim (which arguably is the case here). It should be noted that typically one is being coerced to do something negative too, and thats why i think its somewhat appropriate for this situation.

I'm going to assume that the main thing thats negative is the changes themselves, not the manner in which the changes are made.

There are many words which refer to negative ways inwhich persuasion can occur. But not many touch on whether or not the changes themselves are good or bad. Seduce sort of works, but not in this setting. I think corrupt may be the best one.

Theres beguile, to influence by trickery, flattery.

Cajole, to persuade by flattery or promises.

Coax, to attempt to influence by gentle persuasion, flattery.

Wheedle, to endeavor to influence (a person) by smooth, flattering, or beguiling words or acts.

I think "influence" may also be a contender. Influence generally refers to (and maybe implies?) negative effects. And i don't think theres much in regards to connotations on the manner in which the influencing occurs.

Brainwash, again, implies that the process is negative too.

Proselytize means to try to get someone over to your side or your way of seeing things. But it implies intent and i think you want to allow for the possibility that the influencing is unintentional (which would definitely be the more professional way of phrasing it).


To avoid negativity, the comments are not visible for the participants until the end of the session.


(noun) 1. habitual skepticism and a disagreeable tendency to deny or oppose or resist suggestions or commands

Usage example from New York Times Jan 6, 2017

A psychologist asks this question to help overcome negativity.

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