Negativity Bias: Is There Really More Bad News Than Good?

June 21, 2017


Unless you live under a rock, or haven’t turned on the news recently, you may have noticed that the news is overwhelmingly negative. However, though the majority of the news is negative, this doesn’t mean that there is necessarily more negativity in the world than positivity; instead, negativity simply sells better.


We’ve all noticed the pattern: day after day, another tragedy occurs that sparks a unified, but fleeting, mourning across the world before yet another attack lures our attention, leaving a trail of hashtags and unfinished stories in its wake. It has come to a point where many want to turn off the TV at the sight of the latest headlines, inundated by the copious evil in the world and as a result, desensitized to it.


While 90 percent of reported news is negative, this is not reflective of the actual ratio between negative and positive events occurring in the world. In reality, news organizations need to focus their reporting on negative events as that is what generates audiences and in turn, earns these organizations profit. In fact, despite constant changes arising in the way news is reported, the types of events that generate audiences has remained fairly stagnant over the years. For example, war and terrorism related stories have consistently remained the most audience generating, and as a result the most widely covered, since 1986.




Despite our constant complaints that the media is too negative, we actively seek out negative news over positive news, revealing an overall pessimistic attitude in our current society.


A social experiment conducted by the news organization City Reporter revealed this general attitude after they switched their headlines and stories from focussing on the negative to focussing on the positive for one day. For instance, reports on the inclement weather would center around the silver lining in the fact that the weather luckily did not affect the traffic. The experiment yielded disheartening results, however, as the news organization lost two thirds in their viewership due to this shift in angles.


These patterns cannot simply be taken at face value. Although it is important to cover the attacks and violence present in the world, we must make an active effort to seek out the positivity in the world. This negative mindset can have detrimental ramifications for our society. If we view the world as a generally negative place, we may not be as compelled to take an active role in fixing the issues that affect our society and in turn create more problems for ourselves.


With the political and social climate of our world today, and as hard as it may be, we cannot afford to sink into pessimism. Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.


Zoya Wazir is a seventeen-year-old Muslim-American with a deep rooted passion for social activism and writing. She plans to double major in Journalism and Political Science in order to work toward achieving the change she wishes to see in the American media. In her fleeting free time, she also likes to create art, read celebrity autobiographies, and binge-watch Bollywood movies. 

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