That’s the Negativity Bias
What is it about negative experiences or information that pulls us out of good decision making? It’s easier for us to think about the ‘downside’ of a decision… the bad things that could happen. And our brains give far more weight to the negative than the positive ‘upside’. That’s the Negativity Bias.
Behind the scenes, three things can be happening in our brains when we evaluate negative information.
- We see what’s wrong because it’s literally part of our survival. The positive might be nice but the negative could really harm us.
- Negative experiences are often emotional events. We store memories better when emotions are involved so we recall them more readily – whether it’s scary medical information or the deep embarrassment we might feel after telling an inappropriate joke.
- We are bombarded by 24/7 negative news and social media that amplifies the weight of negative information.
I often think about how negative information not only impairs us emotionally, but it also impacts our ability to weigh information accurately when doing research for a decision we’re facing.
To help you shift into a more positive state and imagine the upside of a decision,
make a list, or tell someone
- When you did something inspiring.
- When you trusted yourself.
- A time you made a good decision, and it turned out.
If you can’t remember, ask somebody trusted who knows you. These are all reflections that help you to remind yourself that there is positive information too. Celebrate your wins.
Next week we’ll spend more time with the Negativity Bias and how to integrate the downside and upside in decision making. Get out of the swirl of the Negativity Bias by reminding yourself of all that you’ve accomplished already! It can open up creative possibilities as you face your next great decision.