That's why researchers have found that animals, including humans, generally learn faster from pain (alas) than pleasure.
(For more on the neuropsychology of the negativity bias, and references, see the slide sets on my website.)That learning from your childhood and adulthood - both what you experienced yourself and saw others experiencing around you - is locked and loaded in your head today, ready for immediate activation, whether by a frown across a dinner table or by TV images of a car-bombing 10,000 miles away. To keep our ancestors alive, Mother Nature evolved a brain that routinely tricked them into making three mistakes: overestimating threats, underestimating opportunities, and underestimating resources (for dealing with threats and fulfilling opportunities).
On a previous blog at the Huffington Post, I used the example of Stephen Colbert's satirical "March to Keep Fear Alive" as a timely illustration of a larger point: humans evolved to be fearful - since that helped keep our ancestors alive - so we are very vulnerable to being frightened and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and "paper tigers." With his march, Colbert was obviously mocking those who play on fear, since we certainly don't need any new reminders to keep fear alive.This vulnerability to feeling threatened has effects at many levels, ranging from individuals, couples, and families to schoolyards, organizations, and nations.Cow implies bringing out an abject state of timorousness and often demoralization: a dog that was cowed by abuse.To bully is to intimidate through blustering, domineering, or threatening behavior: workers who were bullied into accepting a poor contract., kissing--actually kissing--an agreeable female, and leaving taxes, summonses, notices that he had called, or announcements that he would never call again, for two quarters' due, wholly out of the question.We lean against other people or objects to show a territorial claim to that person or object.
Leaning against something can also be used as a method of dominance or intimidation if the object being leaned on belongs to someone else.Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intense (e.g., loud, bright) positive ones. For example, people in studies can identify angry faces faster than happy ones; even if they are shown these images so quickly (just a tenth of a second or so) that they cannot have any conscious recognition of them, the ancient fight-or-flight limbic system of the brain will still get activated by the angry faces.The alarm bell of your brain - the amygdala (you've got two of these little almond-shaped regions, one on either side of your head) - uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it's primed to go negative.And wired to zero in on any apparent bad news in a larger stream of information (e.g., fixing on a casual aside from a family member or co-worker), to tune out or de-emphasize reassuring good news, and to keep thinking about the one thing that was negative in a day in which a hundred small things happened, ninety-nine of which were neutral or positive.(And, to be sure, also be mindful of any tendency you might have toward rose-colored glasses or putting that ostrich head in the sand.)Additionally, be mindful of the forces around you that beat the drum of alarm - whether it's a family member who threatens emotional punishment or political figures talking about inner or outer enemies.His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 40,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites.