Social Sciences

Bad News Isn't Everywhere—That's Just Your Negativity Bias At Work

When you turn on the news, it can feel like the world is crumbling. Aren't good things happening, too? Yes—but those stories don't make nearly as big of an impression on your mind. That's because we've all got a cognitive quirk known as negativity bias.

Related: Confirmation Bias Makes You Ignore What You Don't Agree With

Negativity Speaks

It's your brain's negativity bias that makes you do things like hold long-term grudges or pay more attention to bad news. According to Psychology Today, "Your brain is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news. The bias is so automatic that it can be detected at the earliest stage of the brain's information processing." Research reveals that our brains produce a greater surge in electrical activity when faced with negative stimuli than positive or neutral stimuli. This is why downbeat news can feel more profound than, say, a 4-year-old reading more than 1,000 books.

But why are we such Debbie downers? As you might've guessed, we have evolution to thank. The negativity bias is simply an evolutionary adaptation to keep us out of harm's way. As Gizmodo illustrates, it's more important to note that "saber tooth tigers suck" than "this berry tastes good." Fair enough.

Related: Survivorship Bias Makes You Focus On Successes When You Should Remember Why Others Failed

Five To One

While once crucial for survival, our negativity bias can be a bit of a bummer. It can also play a major role in intimate relationships—experts recommend keeping a balance of five to one positive to negative interactions to maintain a healthy relationship. In general, frequent small positive experiences will help outweigh the negative in our lives. (Also, maybe watch less news.)

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Written By
Curiosity Staff
May 9, 2017