Negativity Bias

Mental Clutter
August 21, 2017

But It’s So Much Easier To Be Negative.

The Negativity Bias suggests that occurrences of a negative nature have much more effect on your mental state than occurrences of a neutral or even positive nature.  This could explain all the negative campaign ads building up to elections. Nastiness works.

Maybe this Negativity Bias is why insults and less-than-kind comments stick to the inner walls of our being and may stay there for a life-time. However, when you try to focus on the positive it takes a searching of the mind to find those gems.

The Price

Here’s where we miss out: we overestimate threats and disadvantages and underestimate opportunities and the resources at our disposal. This bias is so ingrained that it can be detected in our brains before it is in our conscious awareness.  Using measurements of the electrical activity in the brain indicates there are higher levels of activity during the initial stages of information processing (before our conscious awareness) for negative stimuli than for positive or neutral stimuli.  We are focused on the negative before we even get a chance to think about it.

Just like all forms of anxiety, there is a good reason for our reactions.  Anxiety keeps us safe. Our body reacts quickly and intensely to danger in an effort for survival.  This reaction is automatic and unfortunately is not used exclusively to detect physical danger.  All “dangers”, including hurt feelings, are processed from a place of protection and consequently is prone to over-reaction.

What To Do?

We cannot undo our survival instincts, but we can become aware of the limitations of these over-reactions to the negative.  What can you do?  Here is a two-step survival guide to fighting your own negativity bias.  Number 1: Monitor your unkind words to others – even if you are just joking.  That stuff will stick, especially to your children, close family, and close friends.  Number 2: Consciously put effort into being positive.  You have a ton of negative to fight off.  Studies have shown that it takes 5 positive thoughts to combat each negative thought.  Write down every day a list of gratitude. Read positive books. Listen to positive programming. Finally, make a point of noticing the good.

Here’s to a worthy fight!





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