Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for Negativity Bias

You probably won't be surprised if I tell you that human beings have a tendency to focus on the negative. Though many people try to be positive and grateful, when something bad happens, we tend to fixate on that thing, complain about it, and in many cases, let it ruin our mood/day/week/month/year/etc. This is known as the negativity bias; unpleasant things have a greater impact than pleasant or neutral things.

You can see how this bias might be important for survival. If something can result in a negative outcome (which could be as minimal as discomfort to as extreme as injury or death), it's going to get more of our attention and more strongly influence our behavior than something with a positive outcome. However, this bias influences a variety of decisions, including ones that would be better served with more rational consideration of the facts.

During this election year, you've probably heard MANY ads about different candidates, and as with many election cycles, MANY of these ads are actually attacks on other candidates: highlighting negative traits and bad things that candidate has done in his/her past. These ads capitalize on the negativity bias.

I was going to post some examples of negative ads here, but I'm sure you've seen tons. So here's a puppy instead.

Obviously, if you're conscious of this bias, you can try to correct for it. One way is by making an effort to fixate on the positive, through a process called savoring; I've blogged about savoring before, and you can also read more about it here. Or just keep staring at that adorable puppy!

1 comment:

  1. The negativity involved in the election circus is one of the reasons I can hardly stand to think about politics anymore. I know being engaged in the political process is important, but it's so exhausting.

    Stormy’s Sidekicks!

    @LGKeltner from
    Writing Off the Edge