Why we remember negative experiences more than the positive??

I recently read two articles. These two articles are not related to each other. One article challenged whether India has really grown by 7.6% in FY 15-16. The other spoke on 30 valuable insights for individuals as they rise to become world class. The first article is analytical and attacking. The second article (tips) is positive and inspiring. Both the articles are written by eminent personalities in their respective fields.

So all things being equal (well largely), which one do you think has had a greater impact on me? In other words, which one would have had a better recall value?

Here is the link to both these articles, just in case you want to give it a try and check it out for yourself.

Article 1 : http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/at-7-6-india-is-the-fastest-growing-economy-or-the-best-data-fudger/articleshow/52565724.cms

Article 2 : https://t.co/qKEFfYblQG

Article 2 gives some of the important and time tasted principles for leading an inspired life, yet for me the recall of the analytical and attacking article (Article 1) was high?

Let’s take the situation of 2 days in our life. On first day three events happen. We lose money, our friends abandon us for some reason and we receive criticism. On day 2, we gain money, we gain friends and we are praised.

Which day are we likely to remember more? Events giving negative experience (day 1) will have higher impact than the events giving positive experience (day 2).

Think of the feedback you may have received from your customer, boss, and colleague. We tend to remember negative feedback stronger and longer compared to the positive feedback.


Why does this happen?


Reasons :

A new study suggests that we recall bad memories more easily and in greater detail than good ones for perhaps evolutionary reasons. Researchers say negative emotions like fear and sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to memories.

According to science daily, emotions and memory are indivisibly linked to human brain. Hence the more emotionally disturbing experience, the more it sticks with the memory.


Bad is stronger than good :

Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University, and Ellen Bratslavsky, from Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland captured the idea in the title of a journal article, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good”. The paper gives an extensive account of various research done in this as well as related subjects. It deals with various aspects of life like reacting to events, close relationships, emotions, learning, information processing, memory, forming impressions etc.

Threat requires more attention :

Their paper says that throughout the evolutionary history, organisms that were better attuned to bad things would have more likely to survive threats. Survival requires urgent attention to possible bad outcomes, but it is less urgent with regard to good ones.

Adaption level effects tend to prevent any lasting changes in the overall happiness and instead return people to their baseline. After a short peak in happiness, people become accustomed to new situation and are no more happy than they were before the improvement. After a serious misfortune however, people adjust less quickly.

One bad deed equals Five good deed :

People satisfied with their relationship (eg Friendship; marriage; partnership and families) communicate with more verbal positive behaviours (eg agreement; confirmation; constructive problem solving; politeness; expressing forgiveness) and non verbal behaviour (eg smiling, nodding, caring or concerned voice etc). On the other hand people dis-satisfied with their relationships communicate with more negative verbal behaviours (eg Insults; threats and criticism). In order for a relationship to succeed, positive and good interactions must outnumber the negative and bad ones in the ratio of 5 to 1.

Why bad would be stronger than the good :

It is adaptive – Bad events signal a need for change, whereas good ones do not. Negative stimuli have a greater influence on the neural system than the positive stimuli. Negative traits, relative to positive traits have a greater influence on the overall impression of the other person. Lessons learned from negative experiences are retained permanently so that same mistakes or costs are not encountered repeatedly.


Good entails consistency across time and events which cannot be created by a single positive event but can be destroyed by single bad event.


Well let me now sign off to start counting my good deeds to mitigate the bad ones. I think I started with one by writing this piece.

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