Saturday, April 28, 2012

On Why We're All So Negative

I'm running a little early for my trip to the Red Cross, so here's an article and my two cents. I think that we all know the negative Nancies of the world, but the NYT throws in that journalistic ambiguous pronoun of 'some:' "Some people do have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail." Either way, apparently, it is all psychological and physiological that you can only remember the glass being half empty, apparently. After all, there's a reason that Fail became an internet meme, but not Success.

Heck, even #Winning was more about someone... not really winning, when it took off.

This is no doubt part of why people go through so much effort to avoid negative experiences; they stick with you longer and more vividly. I think it is more than just that though. Most people remember good things, but they just don't come up in conversation very often. I doubt people routinely talk about their first kiss (though, I guess, that's usually awkward rather than good) or the novel that made the biggest impact in their life. Maybe we just, as a culture, forever and ever, have been too focused on how to avoid being eaten by lions or whatever to really ever stop and say: "Hey, you know what we should do today? Talk about how generous we are as a country."

I'm sure everyone's familiar with this: "In an experiment in which participants gained or lost the same amount of money, for instance, the distress participants expressed over losing the money was greater than the joy that accompanied the gain." This is because people tend to feel ownership for things, and losing is worse than winning. With winning, your options expand. You can still eat ramen noodles if you win big (you just never would in a sane and rational world. But we're talking economics.) However, if you lose, even a minor loss, you realistically might go from eating out with company to compromising so you can pay for gas.

"Professor Baumeister said: 'If criticism was more common, we might be more accepting of it.'" That's one thought; the other thought, that I have, is that if criticism were effective, actually critical, and not just finding creative new ways to say you suck, it would be effective. How often do we really effectively criticize something? I don't think we do. I know it takes a lot of effort to really, honestly, critique something. To get down into the nitty gritty and explain why something isn't working and what can be done to make it work.

Anyway, just an interesting little article that I had a bit more of a response to than I thought would warrant it being just part of yesterday's weekly links.



Either way, we should all add to Alina Tugend's kudos file by thanking her for something interesting.

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