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Bad News Is Good News
January 28, 2011 - By: - In: In the News / Awards - 9 comments

The world is going to hell in a hand basket.

Like that’s news, right? Unless you’ve got your news filter on your browser set for cute kitten videos only, you already know that, since the news you get is always bad.

And if recent research is accurate, the reason that all we get is bad news is because bad news is all we get, or rather, we grasp bad news faster than good news, and it’s more likely to stick with us. Kitten.

And it’s not just all that’s fit to print. We accentuate the negative in all of our communications. David Carmel, Maha Nasrallah and Nilli Lavie consider our selective memory of the negative to be a positive for natural selection. Flower.

“Rapid and accurate detection of information of negative emotional valence has a clear adaptive value from both biological and psychological perspectives (e.g. for engaging in avoidance behavior to prevent potential harm or unpleasant social exchanges).” Well, I suppose that’s another way of saying a buzz kill can kill you if you don’t pay attention right now. Saber-tooth! See? Now I’ve got your attention.

In the experiment, volunteers were exposed to a word so quickly that they couldn’t even read it.  They were then asked whether the word was neutral or had either positive or negative emotional content. Negative words were the winners by far, even though the test was not for word detection. At 30 or so milliseconds, respondents only had to detect the feeling or “emotional valance” they got from the word.

The researchers speculate “that the brain might process negative stimuli faster than positive ones,” or that “processing is equally fast for both types of information but that negative words better capture our attention, causing the processing to start earlier.” Handbasket.

These theories are supported by other cognitive research that shows that attention speeds perception and emotion drives attention. This is a thought I will try to keep in mind next time I consider rolling down the car window and extending an NYC-style greeting to that asshole who just cut me off. But that kind of self-control is not the kind of negativity that’s going to get my attention, or what’s left of it, anyway. Hell.

So, bad news junkie that I am, I’ll surf my way back to the Drudge Report and get all outraged and distracted. Ever since the Web came along, smelling the flowers just doesn’t do it for me anymore, and that’s perfectly natural. Pistol Sales Surge After AZ Shooting.

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