Can we control it? Can we override it? Would we even want to? Are we even aware that we do it?
I’m referring to the cognitive and negative bias of our brains. Our brains are naturally wired to be more heavily impacted by any negative news than the positive. It’s just how it is. And our brains can also at times be struck by cognitive bias.
We have a general tendency to hold onto the bad over the good. We make decisions based on our cognitive and negative biases, but are we even understanding that we are harbouring these thought processes?
What does cognitive and negative bias even mean? And how then do these biases potentially influence us and should we do anything about it? Let’s delve in and see…
Surging electrical activity proves how heavily influenced our brains are…
Psychology today wrote an article which included a study by John Cacioppo, Ph.D, and he found that the brain, ‘reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative. There is a greater surge in electrical activity. Thus, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news.
Our capacity to weigh negative input so heavily most likely evolved for a good reason—to keep us out of harm’s way. From the dawn of human history, our very survival depended on our skill at dodging danger. The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and thus, hopefully, respond to it.’
So, you see we are naturally wired this way. Naturally wired to remember the negative over the positive. Even though our survival doesn’t rely on this distress signal in the same way it once would, it still instinctively defaults back to this programmed setting each time.
Which also goes so far as to influence our cognitive bias. Where our brains develop memory shortcuts, which it relies upon for situations when we need to make a decision rapidly.
Cognitive biases are often as a result of your brains attempt to simplify information processing…
According to verywellmind.com, ‘a cognitive bias is a type of error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them. The human brain is powerful but subject to limitations. Cognitive biases are often a result of your brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. They are rules of thumb that help you make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed.
When you are making judgments and decisions about the world around you, you like to think that you are objective, logical, and capable of taking in and evaluating all the information that is available to you. Unfortunately, these biases sometimes trip us up, leading to poor decisions and bad judgments.’
Whilst it’s thought that our cognitive bias can be incredibly accurate, it can also catch us out; even when we think that we are being objective and thinking in a practical manner. You see we create shortcuts in our minds which determine how we should respond, think and feel in a particular situation.
Also called heuristics, these biases are based upon things which have previously happened to us. For example, it could be from; social pressures, emotional and individual pressures, as well as our own limitations to process things, that can impact these biases.
It’s interesting stuff, right? These biases can also be incredibly useful to us when we need to think fast in varying situations. But they can also be the downfall to an open mind, and can potentially create health problems.
Too much negativity is actually bad for your health…
The University of Minesotahas discovered that negative feelings and attitudes over prolonged lengths of time can repress our immune system and impact our lifespan.
‘Negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can create chronic stress, which upsets the body’s hormone balance, depletes the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system. Chronic stress can actually decrease our lifespan. (Science has now identified that stress shortens our telomeres, the “end caps” of our DNA strands, which causes us to age more quickly.)
Poorly managed or repressed anger (hostility) is also related to a slew of health conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, and infection.’
It is possible to address our negative bias and to tweak our way of thinking. That’s not to say you won’t have a natural bias. You will. You can’t completely override the way that we are wired. But it is to say we can look at how we react and choose to go about our lives.
A positive mindset really does help more than you realise. You can build a mindset of growth and positivity over time. This creates a greater strength of emotional wellbeing and resilience. And it allows us to open our horizons to a wealth of possibilities.
So, when there isn’t a threat or fault in your immediate environment: What can you do to avoid negativity and cognitive bias?
Negativity and cognitive bias would have aided our ancestors in the past and it still has a use today. But generally speaking we are not under immediate threat in our day to day lives. Our brains will still always look to store the negative and bad over the good. We can readily recount things that have happened to us that might be sad, embarrassing, or not very pleasant.
But how easily can you recall a positive mental note or memory? Negativity and cognitive bias can be counter-productive to us, and so there are a few ways in which you can look to develop a more balanced approach in your mind.
So, they are;
1) No-one was born knowing: Have a mindset of growth…
It’s in accepting that things go wrong from time to time, and that sometimes we may fail. But by seeing these times as an opportunity to learn and to grow. It’s all part of our development.
No one was born knowing and it’s right to not assume that even as adults our journey of understanding and learning isn’t yet complete.
2) Reboot and override: Look for the good in every experience…
Look for the positive in every experience you encounter. That’s not to say that you can’t be sad, you can’t be angry or that you can’t be unhappy. We are human beings after all, emotions are perfectly normal and natural.
But what we can do is to find the good in what we see, feel and understand. What difference could that make to the way you feel? But also, how that could change the way others see and feel around you.
3) Relish the good: Savour the moment…
Our lives are increasingly busy but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the time to savour the moment when good things do happen. Relish the good. Science has shown that by taking time to digest these positive thoughts, actually allows more neurons to fire up and respond to the stimuli created. This helps to consolidate the experience in our memory.
So, savouring the moment really does have a positive impact with lasting results.
4) Encourage the understanding of good: Be more mindful…
Not only is savouring the moment a positive benefit to us, but so is being mindful of ourselves and our thoughts. By being aware of both good and bad experiences, we can allow ourselves to understand how we feel and think when something good does happen. When we choose to interact with our positive experiences, we can experience the whole sensation of thoughts, feelings and senses. This encourages the mind to store what’s happening and so next time it needs a shortcut to predetermine a reaction or feeling –– it has a more rounded selection to draw from.
Let’s draw to a close: The wiring isn’t all wrong –– balance is key…
It’s important not to think we can override all negative thoughts or cognitive biases. We can’t and shouldn’t want to. But it is to say that it’s always useful to be aware of why we are wired the way we are and to practice techniques to install a little more balance of our minds, our thoughts and our stored experiences.
So, what do you think? What do you believe about our cognitive biases and our negativity bias?
Is it possible to maintain balance of mind? It would be great to learn and understand what you think about the topic….
Has this topic got your neurons firing? Let’s keep the conversation going…
You can leave me a comment, or you can find me at; simplyamberlou.worpress.com and on LinkedIn: @Amber L Smith, plus you can send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org