Why We Focus on the Negative

Rick Hanson Explains the Evolution of the Negativity Bias

Much can be made of the power of positive thinking, but the real question is, why do we tend toward the negative in the first place?

Networker Symposium keynote speaker and workshop presenter Rick Hanson has a lot of insight to offer into the negativity bias that is ingrained in us. It all began with our early ancestors who had to learn (and quickly!) that the primary rule of living in the wild was eat, or be eaten.

The human brain is continuously trying to learn from experience, so this lesson has stuck with us through the years. Negative experiences—like being prey in the wild—leave an impression that is fast-tracked into the part of our memory that focuses on learning.

Check out this clip where Rick talks in depth about the origins of the negativity bias:



Rich Simon

Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.

Rick Hanson

Rick Hanson, PhD, is a psychologist, a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, and a New York Times best-selling author. His books are available in 26 languages and include Hardwiring Happiness (Harmony, 2016), Buddha’s Brain (New Harbinger, 2009), Just One Thing Card Deck (PESI, 2018), and Mother Nurture (Penguin, 2002).  He edits the Wise Brain Bulletin and has numerous audio programs.