A study in the mid-2000s found that about half of US, German, Italian, and Austrian campaign coverage conveyed bad news, while as little as 6 percent conveyed good news.
Photo Insert: Bad news is apparently a good business model.
A recent study found that the “proportion of headlines denoting anger, fear, disgust and sadness” grew markedly in the US between 2000 and 2019, Dylan Matthews reported for Vox.
An international survey from Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism last year found that in almost every country surveyed, trust in media is falling, and more people are avoiding news.
Humans, it turns out, have what social psychologists call a “negativity bias”: We tend to pay more attention to bad-seeming information than good-seeming information.
In effect, we are wired to entertain the negative, and this is the reason why conspiracy theories, spin autocrats and Donald Trump retain their stupid constituencies. This also explains why cyberspace is littered with cognitive dissonance and the detritus of lies and half-truths.
One of social psychologists’ greatest passions is scouring human behavior for its many failures of rationality and perception, the systematic biases that push us off track.
“Negativity bias,” the tendency for negative information and experiences to overwhelm the positive, kept coming up.
In 1967, psychologist Marjorie Richey and co-authors found that university students were influenced more by negative descriptions than positive ones. In 1982, Teresa Amabile and Ann Glazebrook noted there might be a general “bias toward negativity in evaluations of persons or their work.”