The negativity bias - Deepstash

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Negativity bias: how negative experiences cloud our judgement

The negativity bias

The negativity bias

The negativity bias happens when a person dwells on a negative event for a long period of time.

We tend to register negative stimuli every time we go through displeasing situations. This is because negative events have a bigger impact than those of positive ones on our mental and emotional state and this affects our behavior, thoughts, and relationships – often unconsciously.

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The negativity bias
The negativity bias

We have the tendency to give more weight in our minds to things that go wrong than to things that go right—so much so that just one negative event can hijack our minds in ways that can be detrimental to our work, relationships, health, and happiness.

Findings about the negativity bias
  • We get upset when someone doesn't fulfill a promise. However, if they do more than promised, we're not grateful enough for it.
  • People learn more and faster from punishment and reward. If you have to pick one, negative feedback stimulates learning faster than positive feedback.
The Negative Golden Rule

Do not do unto others what you do not want to be done unto you.

It is about focusing on eliminating the negative more than encouraging the positive. Because there’s abundant evidence from multiple sources that relationships are far more strongly affected by negative things than positive things.

Positive and negative anticipation
Positive and negative anticipation

A study from the University of British Columbia analyzed the effects of positive and negative anticipation.

The conclusions show that we tend to want a yummy snack immediately but prefer to delay paying our bills. This seems to make intuitive sense, but the researchers wanted to dig deeper into the role of anticipation.

Anticipation asymmetry

Anticipation pushes against our natural tendency to want good things now and bad things later.

We'd rather get negative experiences over with to avoid the dread of waiting. Yet this desire is not as powerful as wanting positive experiences immediately.

Subjective magnitude

We weigh negatives twice as heavily as positives. This is similar to loss aversion: We prefer avoiding losses than acquiring equivalent gains.

Loss aversion focuses narrowly on losses and gains, however, while subjective magnitude broadly considers positive and negative events.

Emotions

They are basal responses that begin in the subcortical areas of the brain responsible for producing biochemical reactions to environmental stimuli that have a direct impact on our physical state. 

Coded into our DNA, emotions help us respond quickly to threats, like our ‘fight or flight’ response. Also, they can often be measured objectively through physical cues such as blood flow, heart rate, brain activity, facial expressions, and body language.

Feelings

Feelings are preceded by emotions and tend to be our reactions to them. Emotions are a more generalized experience across humans, but feelings are more subjective and influenced by our personal experiences and interpretations, thus they are harder to measure.

Negative Emotions

They can be defined as unpleasant or unhappy emotions evoked in individuals to express a negative effect towards something.

Although some are labeled negative, all emotions are normal to the human experience. And it’s important to understand when and why negative emotions might arise, and develop positive behaviors to address them.