How the Human Brain Processes Negativity

Nowadays we as humans are constantly bombarded with news of all sorts, numerous social media sites, and countless news stations on television. It is nearly impossible to avoid a constant stream of bad news and difficult things to read and hear. Not only are you constantly surrounded by negative news on social media television but in real life too. Since the brain is meant to deal and process with negative situations because life is not perfect and never has been, it has a surprising way of doing it.

As somewhat of a coping mechanism the brain filters what it is experiencing, taking in more good news than it does bad. This selective intake is called the ‘good news/ bad news effect’. The good news bad news effect has the strongest impact on young adults and teens because at a young age, teens are more prone to take risks disregarding bad news as good. Based on a study done by PMC

“ages tested (9–26 y), younger age was associated with inaccurate updating of beliefs in response to undesirable information regarding vulnerability” (

Human decision making is based on how we think the outcome of that decision will affect our future, not on what has happened in the past. Adolescents’ brains are not fully developed and driven to take risks without accounting for the consequences. With development gist and verbatim memory develop, but weaker in teenage years. This lack of development can lead to rash and irresponsible decisions because the brain has a bias for only looking at the good outcomes and not the bad.

The brain cannot only be tricked by what it has previously experienced but also by sentence structure. If someone tells you “Eating eating kale isn’t that bad for your health ” the negative words trick your brain into thinking it could be bad, when in reality very healthy. A study using negative statements that were not always true was done by Psychologists Nieuwland and Kuperberg from Tufts University proved that if the brain hears a word with negative connotation it believes the statement to be negative (

Women and men process news in different ways. Stereotypes based on women’s and men’s emotions are often skewed and offensive, but they are not all wrong. In a study done by Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal and the University of Montreal found that when men were exposed to negative news more of their brain was activated and less emotion was evoked. One of the scientists, Stéphane Potvin, involved in the study said “A stronger connection between these areas in men suggests they have a more analytical than emotional approach when dealing with negative emotions” (

Many factors influence how people interpertit bad news such as biological and cultural factors such socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status (SES) can effect a childs life dramatically mentally and physically. According to a lower SES leads to higher rates of attempted suicides, cigarette smoking, and heavy drinking. Higher levels of emotional/behavioral disorders including anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder. Lower SES also influences higher level of aggression and hostility. Can also lead to higher risk of Alzheimers disease when aged. A low SES also leads to diminished physical health such as an increased chance of high body mass index (

These negative effects can harm and elicit negative reactions to bad news. In brain scans of 1,099 children and young adults in 9 major cities indicates children with lower SES have less surface area of the brain compared to children with higher SES. Dr. Kimberly Noble states “Small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in surface area” ( A study done by HeartMath researched the connection between the heart and the brain. When they conducted a study where the brain endured stress and negative emotions, the heart beat faster and erraticly the brain could was inhibited to higher cognitive patterns ( When a person reacts to negative actions or words the brain works with the heart and with less surface area reactions constricted to be carried out successfully.

Mental illness also takes a toll on how negativity is processed in the brain. In the case of depression the brain sometimes has a hard time associating emotions to events, making it more difficult to recognize and process negativity. When your brain is telling you something other than reality it can hard to process any news.

In present day, when social media makes it impossible not to be constantly exposed to all kinds of news, good, and bad its is important to understand and accomidate the needs of our bodies and the health of our brain in order to stay happy.

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