What is a Negative Bias and Why Do We Have it?

I have been working away at an online course on why brain science matters in therapy. In one of the segments, we hear about ‘negative bias’ from Dr.Rick Hanson. Essentially, he talks about how the brain is very good at learning from bad experiences and pretty bad about learning from good experiences; what it really boils down to is an evolutionary bias towards avoiding danger and threat.

He goes on to explain that we have three levels of the evolutionary brain developed to focus on three fundamental needs: avoiding harms, approach and rewards and attaching to others. Bottom line? We need to make sure there is no threat or danger before we can move onto the next two stages. And so, forms the negative bias. Negative experience in short term memory gets converted immediately to long term-storage. I will never forget, for example, what it felt like to hit another car from behind; every time I am in the driver’s seat, I automatically give myself a wide berth to the car in front of me. There is my negative bias, working to keep me safe. 🙂

The reason this bit of information is important is that it gives us information about how cumulative negative experiences can contribute to increased anxiety and our overall emotional health.

Tomorrow’s post will continue the work of Dr. Hanson in exploring how we can use positive experiences to create a positive mental state, increasing our ability to cope with the stressors and challenges life presents us.

To visit Dr. Hanson’s website: https://www.rickhanson.net/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

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1 thought on “What is a Negative Bias and Why Do We Have it?”

  1. interesting idea. i never would have considered this a negative train of thought. esp since i used to have a motorcycle


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