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Negativity Bias: Why bad news dominates the headlines

By on August 5, 2014

‘Negativity bias’ refers to our natural tendency to focus on the negative in life, as opposed to the positive. If you are a practicing hypnotist, this explains why most of your clients come in to solve problems, rather than to boost positive states!

One of your tasks in change work is to refocus your client on the positive changes they experience, rather than the negative problem they walked in with. One way of doing this is by consciously understanding our natural tendency for negativity bias. Once we realize that our brain tends to focus on three negative themes for every positive theme, we can begin to consciously adjust to a  more healthy ratio, perhaps one to one is a good start!

Now, you are probably saying, “not me, I’m a naturally positive person, I always focus on the positive!” Unfortunately we have some bad news for you! Don’t worry, you’ll probably enjoy it! You see, people who actually demonstrate negativity bias say they prefer to read good news rather than bad news! How can this be? It’s simple, it’s a form of conscious-unconscious dissociation. The conscious mind tends to be more optimistic than the unconscious mind (yes, I know you would think it was the opposite right!), so the conscious mind says it likes good news. But the unconscious mind actually chooses the news articles people read.

Once your client understands that even though they may ‘think’ they focus on the positive, while in fact they almost certainly don’t, you can start to redirect their attention to the positive changes they are making as a result of coming to see you. A great way to explain negativity bias to them is using ‘the latest in neuroscience research…’ The study described below provides just this opportunity.

Maybe you think that believing you prefer to hear about the positive, while unconsciously preferring the negative sounds farfetched? A fascinating and cunning new study from researchers at McGill University showed just this. They basically tricked participants into unconsciously choosing between positive and negative news articles to read, then asked them consciously what type of news they preferred to read. They got exactly this response, the participants chose negative articles to read while stating they preferred positive news articles!

Read a more complete description of the study via the BBC below: are unhappy in their own company and some prefer painful experiences to their own thoughts, a new study claims

It isn’t just schadenfreude, the theory goes, but that we’ve evolved to react quickly to potential threats. Bad news could be a signal that we need to change what we’re doing to avoid danger. Via

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