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Negativity Bias: Definition, Examples and Effects

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Negativity bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to pay more attention to negative events and emotions than positive ones. This bias can have a significant impact on how people perceive and interact with the world around them.

Examples: Picture yourself at work, receiving feedback on a project. Amongst ten positive comments, there's one slightly critical remark. Despite the overwhelming praise, you find yourself ruminating on that one negative comment. This is the negativity bias in action: you're attributing more weight to negative experiences or information over positive ones.

Or consider when you're scrolling through your social media feeds. You see a post that sparks disagreement, and you may spend significantly more time and mental energy focusing on it, despite the multitude of enjoyable content. The negativity bias compels you to dwell more on that single piece of upsetting information, causing you to overlook the numerous positive or neutral posts you've encountered. These everyday examples show how the negativity bias can subtly shape your thoughts, perceptions, and ultimately your mood.

Effects: Negativity bias can have a significant impact on how people perceive and interact with the world around them. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Additionally, it can lead to negative behaviors such as avoidance, procrastination, and pessimism. Negativity bias can also lead to difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, as well as difficulty making decisions.

The key is to be aware of this inherent bias, and consciously work to balance it with a less negative view of events and interactions. Don't let one cloud obscure your sky full of stars.

Do you want to expand your knowledge on this topic? Read our full in-depth article on cognitive biases.

Do you have extra 15 minutes today? Take our fun and interactive quiz to learn which of 16 reasoning styles you use, your overall level of rationality, and what you can do now to improve your rationality skills.


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