Welcome to the Vital Integrities Blog

Negativity Bias

In 1998, John Cacioppo and some colleagues at Ohio State University demonstrated that the human brain reacts more strongly to negative stimuli than it does to positive input. The researchers showed college students pictures expected to arouse positive feelings, negative feelings, and neutral feelings. Using EEGs to record electrical movement in the brains of their subjects, they found greater electrical activity occurred during those moments when students viewed pictures inducing negative thoughts. Their conclusion: negative information stimulates our brains the most and makes us biased toward negativity.

Being aware of can help you understand the cause of workplace negativity. Our natural tendency to focus attention on negative information comes from our inherent response system that prepares us to fight or flee whenever danger is apparent. As a result, employees pay more attention to negative information they get from coworkers than they do good news they hear from the boss. The boss said we're getting raises, but I hear they won't be as big as last year. In other words, workplace negativity is not necessarily the behavior of problem employees, or a symptom of poor leadership; it's human nature at work. Can knowing this help you lead your employees?

To answer that question, it's helpful to examine how advertisers use negativity bias to influence consumer behavior. When you think of negative advertising, you probably think of the blatant, our-product-is-better-than-their-product ads. For instance, if you sell mouth wash, you could advertise that your minty-fresh formula tastes better than your competitor's awful-tasting product, and you might convince some mouth wash buyers to switch to your brand. But successful advertisers don't just seek a larger piece of the market-share pie; they strive to make the whole pie bigger. So, in our example, instead of using negativity to disparage the competition, they play on consumers' negativity bias with ads aimed at convincing more people that they have bad breath.

As a leader, can you use negativity bias to influence worker behavior? I don't mean employing the do-it-my-way-or-you're-fired approach. I mean stimulating employee interest by pointing out the negative consequences of undesired behaviors. For example, instead of preaching, "We need to provide good customer service," perhaps your message should be, "Customers won't shop at stores with poor customer service." Now that you have their attention, you can follow up with, "Here's how we can deliver the type of service that keeps customers coming back forever."

Who thought negativity could be such a good thing?
Bookmark this post on del.icio.us

Practical application of negativity bias to effective entrepreneurial collaboration? http://www.FoolQuest.com/alien.htm

What do you think? Post a Comment
Vital Integrities Blog - Blogged