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Negativity bias: how negative experiences cloud our judgement

Signs of the negativity bias

  • Negative experiences constantly cross your mind more than positive ones.
  • You tend to relive insults more than praise.
  • You're able to recall traumatic situations better than positive events.

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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...

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.

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 detriment...

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.

The Survivorship Bias
The Survivorship Bias

We tend to be interested in the success stories of many. We love the encouragement it provides us, but we often overlook the fact that most of these success stories have undergone through m...

The effects of survivorship bias

When we ignore the logical error of the stories and advice we hear it deceives us into believing that past failures are not adequate enough to be considered.

This bias induces people to see correlation in sheer coincidences.

A great example is when the U.S. Military tried to reduce aircraft casualties back in WWII. They analyzed the planes that got back safely but never the ones that didn't. They concluded that they should increase armor in the wings and the tails of the planes, but not the engine.

Survivorship bias in business

We must remember that most people do not become rich and famous. Most leaps of faiths are miscalculated. This does not mean that we should stop trying, instead we should remain to have a realistic understanding of reality.

Most entrepreneurs don't actually know what they're doing. There isn't a lot of them who have a detailed or a perfected plan to follow. Still, we try to "copy" their ways so that we can probably achieve what they have achieved.