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The Negativity Bias: Why Our Minds Focus on the Negative

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
September 18, 2023
December 19, 2023

The negativity bias is a cognitive phenomenon in which our brains give greater weight to negative information than to positive information. This bias can impact our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a number of ways, and can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.

The “Negativity Bias,” and How It Forms

One example of the negativity bias in action is the way we tend to remember negative events more vividly than positive ones. For instance, you might remember a harsh criticism from a boss or colleague more clearly than a compliment you received. This is because negative experiences trigger a stronger emotional response and are more likely to be stored in our memory.

Another way the negativity bias can impact us is by coloring our perceptions of the world around us. When we are focused on negative information, we may perceive even neutral or positive events as negative. This can contribute to feelings of anxiety, as we become hyper-vigilant for potential threats or dangers.

How to Overcome Negativity

When we are focused on negative information, it's like looking at the world through a cracked mirror. Even if there are positive things around us, the cracks distort our perception and make everything appear negative. But we can repair the cracks in the mirror, see between the cracks at the beautiful face looking back at us. But how? How can we get past negative thoughts, and overcome the negativity bias?

Be Intentionally Positive

To become more positive, one strategy is to intentionally focus on positive information and experiences.

Boost your mood by actively hunting for positive news or uplifting social media content—it's an effective way to stay positive!

Or maybe you can keep a gratitude journal and write down things you are thankful for each day.

Stop Catastrophizing

Shift your mindset by challenging negative thoughts: Pause, find evidence for negative thoughts, and watch your perspective shift.

For instance, if you find yourself catastrophizing or assuming the worst, challenge negative thoughts with evidence and rational thinking. Often, when we examine our negative thoughts more closely, we find that they are not as accurate or realistic as we initially believed.


The negativity bias is a powerful cognitive phenomenon that can impact our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a number of ways. By understanding this bias and implementing strategies to overcome it, we can cultivate a more positive and resilient mindset, and experience greater well-being in our lives.

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