[Video] What Is Negativity Bias? How Can We Overcome It?

by Scott Crabtree

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What is Negativity Bias?

Negativity bias is a term that scientists use to describe the fact that we give more weight to negative or threatening things than we do to positive or happy things. That is, if I were to show you a picture of a group of people and most people were smiling and happy and one person in the back had a really unhappy look on their face, you would immediately be drawn to that person with the unhappy look on their face and say, “What’s wrong with this person in the back?” This makes sense. It keeps you alive out there in a cold, harsh world, with various threats. Your great-great-great-great grandparents survived, and you exist, because human beings are wired to pay more attention to the negative. If you miss a threat, it can be fatal. If you miss an opportunity, you might tighten your belt a little bit. We are wired to pay attention to the negative, and give more emphasis and focus on the negative.

Thrive by Overcoming Negativity Bias

That’s great for keeping you alive out there in a cold, harsh wilderness, but not so great at helping you thrive from nine to five, or the rest of your life, as well. In fact, science suggests we can thrive more by overcoming the negativity bias, putting particular attention and energy on the positive. Sounds easy, might even sound cheesy to some, but it’s not natural, so it requires work for us to really savor the food we’re eating, for example, savor the opportunities we get at work, see the best instead of the worst in our colleagues, as just a few examples.

That’s the negativity bias, and working hard to overcome that natural negativity bias can help you boost happiness, and therefore bring function and effectiveness at work and elsewhere in your life.




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