Tales From the Dropbox Episode 36 drops into your inbox with 15 new (ish) slabs of sonic gooeyness in the form of tunes that you are highly unlikely to find on your radio. 15 songs in about an hour. Drop by, tune in, drop out. It is all good.
And speaking of good, as I looked at the daily news filled with stories of bad news (really bad…just google “news” and you will see a page filled with a litany of stories on murder, mayhem, tragedy, greed, avarice, and other indicators that the world is degenerating into chaos – if we are not already there) the thought arose maybe humans are wired for negativity as some type of survival mechanism.
That is, does a negativity bias distort our perception of the world in such a manner that we are not interested in positive experiences to the same extent as we focus on the negative? Is this negativity bias reflected not only in our news (and the writer’s propensity to offer negative stories as “capturing the reader”) but also in our approach to life with negative interactions becoming more meaningful than positive interactions in our decision making?
Contrary to the intent of this podcast which is focused on good music from my limited perspective and bias, perhaps the reason I have so few listeners is that I played a song that they believed was bad and thereafter inferred that all future music would also be just as bad. Perhaps I would be more effective as a podcast host if I just told you that all of the music I was going to play for you was terrible (much like commercial radio who don’t say it but instead bludgeon you into submission by playing the same shitty songs endlessly hoping that you will eventually like them) and then have you argue with me that the music is really good. i.e. a reverse psychology approach to music selection. Perhaps my complete and absolute loathing of any station that plays the Red Hot Chili Peppers (KROQ – I am referring to you here, you dumb asses) has negatively influenced my perspective of the entire playlist of that station. Now it no longer matters as I rarely listen to anything except a few college radio stations. However, I digress like usual.
Negative bias is real. Paul Rozin and Edward B. Royzman postulate that negative bias is a general bias, based on both innate predispositions and experience, to give greater weight to negative entities (e.g., events, objects, personal traits). This negative bias manifested in 4 ways: (a) negative potency (negative entities are stronger than the equivalent positive entities), (b) steeper negative gradients (the negativity of negative events grows more rapidly with approach to them in space or time than does the positivity of positive events, (c) negativity dominance (combinations of negative and positive entities yield evaluations that are more negative than the algebraic sum of individual subjective valences would predict), and (d) negative differentiation (negative entities are more varied, yield more complex conceptual representations, and engage a wider response repertoire). See Rozin, P and Royzman, E, “Negativity Bias, Negativity Dominance, and Contagion” (2001)
What does this all mean? We are F&^!!!ed. ( Ironically, the previous statement is a pure expression of negative bias.) We are essentially wired for negative and those negative events and experiences have more impact on us than numerous positive events and experiences. We subconsciously look for negative experiences and are drawn to those negative experiences like a moth to a flame because we learn from those negative experiences. At a very basic psychological level, evidence from learning research indicates a powerful negativity bias: negative reinforcement, as opposed to comparable positive reinforcement, leads to faster learning that is more resistant to extinction in both human adults and in animals (e.g., Garcia, Hankins, & Rusiniak, 1974; Logue, Ophir, & Strauss, 1981; Öhman & Mineka, 2001, for a review). As we age, this negativity bias becomes ingrained and distorts our perception because we spend more time looking at negative than at positive stimuli, perceive negative stimuli to be more complex than positive ones, and form more complex cognitive representations of negative than of positive stimuli (e.g., Ducette & Soucar, 1974; Fiske, 1980; H. Miller & Bieri, 1965).
Consequently, (how do you like that $500.00 transition word?), we are hardwired to process negative information as a means of survival. While this explains much of the reason why we focus on all the negative $hXX, it does not explain why we also have to be negative in response to a negative stimulus. Like most of our “biases” i.e. our natural tendencies necessary for our survival, we must recognize those tendencies and balance them out. The ratio to counteract for negative bias tends to be 5:1. Gottman, J “A Theory of Marital Dissolution and Stability” (Journal of Family Psychology, June 1993 Vol. 7, No. 1, 57-75). That is, we need at least 5 positive experiences for every negative experience in order to balance out the negative experience. So, when you have a negative interaction, thought, experience etc. you must take action to not let that experience alter your perception of all similar interactions so that you incorrectly let that perception influence future outcomes. For example, if you have a single negative encounter with a person determine the entire relationship you might be missing out on a truly positive, dynamic, and life altering relationship with that person. So, when you approach a woman in a bar and ask her to dance don’t let her initial response – “F#@$@! off you creep, I’d never go out with someone like you” define the future outcomes. Look at the positive, maybe next time she won’t be some freakin’ negative. Her reaction is likely due to one previous very negative encounter negatively biasing all future approaches by creeps like you. And you in turn won’t approach her again because she is just a miserable stuck up self-important/involved ass. Thus, begins the negative cycle that destroys any possible future relationship. And it happened all because you only wanted to dance! Much like seeing a cockroach in your food turns you off from visiting that same restaurant again in the future. Maybe it’s just her…and not you. She is obviously going to be missing out on all that makes you special. For those who will perceive the prior hypothetical as a sexist in view, I could easily flip the script and have the woman make the approach with the same result, but I am male and uncomfortable faking a female perspective. Believe me, I have little to none as far as understanding the female mind/ perspective. Ask my wife.
So, the takeaway from the research is this: find ways to make positive connections – find the ties that bind and do so to balance out the negativity. More importantly, don’t let a single negative interaction prevent you from engaging and repeating an experience in the future. Ask another person out.
Tales From the Dropbox offers you 15 positive musical experiences to balance out the negative experiences of your week. Don’t look at the news…just listen.
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #36:
- Kid Canaveral – “Callous Parting Gift” (Faulty Inner Dialogues)
- The Interrupters – “Good Things” (Say It Out Loud)
- Titus Andronicus – “Fatal Flaw” (S+@dium Rock – Five Nights at The Opera)
- The See No Evils – “Hanging Around” (Inner Voices)
- New Volume – “Turn Off The Light (Envy)
- Look Mexico – “Well Kansas Ain’t What It Used To Be” (Uniola)
- JPNGRLS – “2009” (Divorce)
- Moose Blood – “Glow” (Blush)
- Star Parks – “Loose Ends” (Don’t Dwell)
- Amsterdam Station – “Jaime Newmar” (The River. The Sound. The Wake.)
- Spencer – “Saturday Shoes” (We Built This Mountain Just To See The Sunrise)
- Society – “The Fear The Hate) (All That We’ve Become)
- Biffy Clyro – “Don’t, Won’t, Can’t” (Ellipsis)
- Guadalcanal Diary – “Trail of Tears” (Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man)
- Xylaroo – “Track a’ Lackin” (Sweetooth)
I woke up this morning coughing and choking . . . I got loose ends … two girls wait by the railroad track for their soldiers to come back knowing this will be their last . . . one wore blue and one wore black