Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots.
That’s because – in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived – if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick – a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species – WHAM, no more chances to pass on their genes.
The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:
• In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.
• People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.
• Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.
In your own mind, what do you usually think about at the end of the day? The fifty things that went right, or the one that went wrong? Like the guy who cut you off in traffic, what you wish you had said differently to a co-worker, or the one thing on your To Do list that didn’t get done . . .
In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. [Read more...]