March 22, 2023
Vox recently published an article featuring Carey Morewedge, Professor of Marketing, discussing how negativity bias is affecting media trust.
Journalists have always been a pessimistic bunch, and the news they produce reflects that. Communication scholars have found that across many years and countries, coverage of political topics tends to more often be conveyed in a negative cynical tone rather than a positive one. Turns out, humans have what social psychologists call a negativity bias; we tend to pay more attention to bad-seeming information than good-seeming information. Negativity bias is the tendency for negative information and experiences to overwhelm the positive.
This could be a root factor for why the news is so negative – it’s what we’re looking for. Researchers say the general existence of negativity bias is so widely validated that it has thus far survived the replication crisis intact. Morewedge states, “A huge diversity of labs and traditions and backgrounds have found evidence for negativity bias, in memory and attention across all kinds of stimuli.”
There are two competing forces at play for news consumers today – a vastly larger and more diverse news ecosystem than ever before in history, and social media networks that serve them exactly the news they want, based on posts, likes, and other interactions.