What is negativity bias

  • Jul 26, 2021
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What is negativity bias

One of the most widespread biases, capable of hindering judgment and communication, is the negativity bias, for which the human brain is biologically more sensitive to news and unpleasant stimuli than to positive. An attitude developed for an obvious reason: survival. Quoting Kahneman: "The brain of humans and other animals contains a mechanism that has been designed to prioritize bad news, to increase the likelihood of living long enough to breed".

We can see how the negativity bias is powerful and ingrained in many life situations. everyday life, for example, in the tendency to remember more insults and failures of praise and praise. successes. This sets off a vicious cycle: the more sensitive we are, the more negativity will take over our mind and the attitude towards negativity reinforces the bias. In this Psychology-Online article, we will delve into what is negativity bias.

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  1. Meaning of negativity bias
  2. Origin of negativity bias
  3. Elements of negativity bias
  4. Examples of negativity bias
  5. How to combat negativity bias

Meaning of negativity bias.

Negativity bias is a phenomenon in which negative events are more important and require more attention than neutral or positive events. In other words, negative information tends to have a greater impact than positive information in the judgments of individuals, since it is more salient and distinctive and remains engraved longer in the memory.

Origin of the negativity bias.

The negativity bias has given us an evolutionary advantage. Good things are nice, but bad things can kill. That is why we pay attention to bad things and remember them first. This bias, in effect, it is useful to be aware of potential threats. As a species, we have learned to survive mostly because we have been very good at avoiding dangers.

This pessimism begins very early: young children begin to show signs of negativity from the age of seven months, suggesting that the tendency is innate. As additional evidence, the researchers are convinced that we tend to remember bad memories more easily than good memories, as some Studies have found that people are more likely to remember unhappy moments from childhood, although they would describe that period as generally happy. In this article, we tell you how to overcome childhood trauma.

Elements of the negativity bias.

Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman have proposed four elements of the negativity bias to explain its manifestation:

  1. Negative power: refers to the notion that, although possibly of equal magnitude or emotionality, negative and positive elements or events are not equally outstanding.
  2. Steeper negative gradientsIt seems that negative events are perceived more and more negative than positive ones as one approaches, spatially or temporally, the event itself.
  3. Mastery of negativity: describes the tendency to combine positive and negative elements or events.
  4. Negative differentiation: the conceptualization of negativity is more elaborate and complex than that of positivity.

Examples of negativity bias.

The negativity bias it can also significantly affect the decisions of individuals. Indeed, the tendency to give more weight to negative information than to positive information has also been analyzed in the research carried out by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, focused on the decision making. In this regard, bias negativity may be related to the loss aversion phenomenon, studied in the "prospect theory" by the two mentioned authors.

Based on the results of your investigations, if decisions involving profit or loss are made, potential costs or losses tend to weigh more heavily on the decision or to be considered more than potential earnings. As Taylor demonstrated in Asymmetrical effects of positive and negative events, negative events tend to involve greater mobilization of physiological responses, cognitive, emotional and social of the organism than the positive ones.

In this article, you will find more information about how to make difficult decisions in life.

How to combat negativity bias.

We all have proof of how active and powerful the negativity bias is if we reflect on how, at the end of a day of work, it comes natural to us to remember insults more than praise, or more negative moments than positive.

However, there is a way to counteract the effects of the negativity bias. Daniel Goleman claims a negative approach is necessary to survive, but you need a positive approach to flourish and prosper. Here's how to combat negativity bias:

  • Focus on the positives of an event: focusing on the spaces of change at our disposal, triggers the gratification circuits present in the brain. Reducing the perception of a threat allows us greater cognitive flexibility, as well as a greater ability to consider other perspectives and scenarios. Discover how to always have a positive thought.
  • Write down all the rewarding moments lived: be it a compliment, a meeting or a new project. If positive memories register more slowly than negative ones, a daily training of the good news will make us stronger. faced with problems, because we will not face them only with fear and the fear of being crushed, but with the ability to mobilize resources and solutions.
  • Using the sandwich technique: First, you proceed with a positive communication about the progress made, then you move on to the bad news and finally concludes with a positive statement on all initiatives planned.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is negativity bias, we recommend that you enter our category of Cognitive psychology.


  • Eyal, N., Li, J. (2020). Come diventare indistraibili. Milan: Edizioni LSWR.
  • Inside Marketing (2020). Negativity bias. Recovered from: https://www.insidemarketing.it/glossario/definizione/negativity-bias/
  • Picozzi, M. (2020). Verbal Warrior. Il potere delle parole per disinnescare il conflitto. Milan: Sperling & Kupfer.
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