Negative Perception, Positive Reality

We have a bias toward negativity, but let’s not interpret that the wrong way. Our brains are designed to sense, signal and remember bad things to protect us from bad things happening again.

Take a moment and roll back through the events of yesterday. You’ll likely recall the arguments, tension. the close calls. As I do that, I see a few situations where I could have been more skillful.

Now, slow down and remember all the other scenes that made up your day. My day had challenging puzzles, laughs over lunch with friends, new writings and Avatar with my son.

Shelly Gable, a researcher at UC-Santa Barbara, does research in the areas of positive psychology and social relationships. In one study, she gave participants a list of sixteen common social interactions.  Eight of the events were positive (e.g. I received a compliment) and eight of the events were negative (e.g. Someone insulted me).  Gable asked participants to record how often these interactions took place over the course of a week.  

The results showed participants experienced on average 5.9 negative interactions in a typical week. I’d say that generally matches my experience and I can remember those pretty clearly.

Participants also recorded 19 positive interactions over the course of the same week, more than three times the number of negative interactions! Think about your own experiences again and how quickly we let those numerous, beautiful moments pass.

6 to 19

Gable says, “[A] key reason for primacy of negative information may be that it violates our expectations. Positive events, information, processes and interactions simply occur more frequently than negative ones.”

So, the negativity that we see and carry with us is tinted by a perception of how we see the world.  The reality is something diferent.


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