Tag: Psychology

Is COVID Using Your Negativity Bias to Destroy You Emotionally?

What demographic seems to be the most worried about COVID?

Among my acquaintances, liberal millennials and the last strands of the X-generation seem to be most concerned. Basically, liberals in the 30-48-year-old range.

There is, of course, no consistent rule, but hands down, people in my age bracket (I’m 54), especially those who tend to be conservative, are far less concerned about it. We also know that the kids (under age 30) seem hardly phased by concerns about the disease.

Negativity Bias

“We pay more attention to unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, and sadness because they’re simply more powerful than the agreeable sort.” Winifred Gallagher, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life.

There has been nothing about this disease that is constant. The “experts” and governmental authorities have flip-flopped wildly and flailed away at the disease like they have any clue what it’s all about, only to have their policies and conclusions proven wrong months later.

But I think there is one constant about COVID: It’s negative.

Can we all—leftists, rightists, pro-mask-lockdowners, anti-mask-lockdowners—agree on that point?

COVID sucks.

Fair enough?

It follows that, if you’re thinking about COVID, you are thinking about something negative.

And if you’re thinking about something negative, you’re “in a bad place,” intellectually and emotionally.

And yet, we tend to dwell in that bad place.

That’s the wickedness of negativity bias. “The brains of humans and other animals contain a mechanism to give priority to bad news.” Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

COVID puts negativity bias on steroids. Everything is falling apart, everything sucks, there’s nothing to look forward, and I might die!

To make it worse, the news is relentless. The media has done everything to make the disease sound worse than it really is, in order to reinforce the government’s … Read the rest

Negativity Bias Identified Long Before It was Identified (11/18/2020)

The minds of men always dwell more on bad luck. They accept ordinary prosperity as a matter of course. Misfortunes arrest their attention and remain in their memory.

William Graham Sumner, Folkways A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals

Just one of the hundreds of examples of tradition identifying psychological discoveries centuries before modern psychiatry did. If you want a treasure trove of such things, read Catholic contemplatives, the Stoics, and the Hesychasts.

(Sumner, btw, lived from 1840 to 1910, so there is overlap with William James, whose Principles of Psychology (1890), which is arguably the beginning of modern psychiatry.)

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