Brain Food #382

The negativity theory

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Good morning.

If things tend to appear to be worse than they are, do not despair; scientists argue that this is simply a trick our minds are playing on us. The negativity bias suggests that brains are wired to choose to focus on the negative, thus making us respond with greater sensitivity to unpleasant news.

A look on the front pages of news websites would, of course, suggest otherwise, indicating that the presence (or presentation) of good and bad news in itself has an uneven balance.

However, even when the balance is just, the negative always wins.

Economist Daniel Kahneman would often run a study in which participants were asked to imagine either losing or gaining $50. Despite the amount being the same, losing money always yielded a far larger emotional response.

But, there are could be ways to manipulate this bias (through language), as there are ways to perceive it (through the intensity, not the sentiment). More on this in the coming days.


Italian futurist painter Giacomo Balla often blended an abstract style with divisionism in his work. In Pessimism and Optimism, our focus inevitably falls on the harsher, more intense black, but slowly we see that there is no clear division, that the lighter blue occupies a much larger proportion of the canvas and that, indeed, one merges into the other.

pessimism-and-optimism-1923

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