The Negativity Bias

Maintaining a positive attitude and an enthusiastic outlook can be challenging for creatives. For many of us, the media we make becomes an extension of who we are.

We pour our blood, sweat and sometimes tears into the projects we produce. It can be difficult to separate our art from our heart. This is one of the best and worst aspects of being a creative.

When remarks hit a nerve

When you see yourself as an artist, and the work that you create as art, there is a tendency to take any sort of critical feedback very personally. Over the course of time, negative comments and criticism can build up and sap the creative spark from our souls.

Even when we hear positive remarks and encouragements, we tend to receive negative remarks with greater weight and carry them with us longer and than equally authentic comments of affirmation.

It turns out, there is a reason for this. Psychologists call it a negativity bias. We need to be aware of its power so that we can overcome and circumvent its downward pull. In short, the concept of a negativity bias suggests that we are naturally inclined to believe the bad things we hear, and discount the good.

The magic ratio

In a recent Psychology Today article titled Our Brain’s Negative Bias, Why our brains are more highly attuned to negative news updated on June 2016, author Hara Estroff Marano purports that merely having an equal balance of positive and negative opinions is not enough to maintain a positive leaning. In fact, researchers found that the negative bias of the brain is innately so strong that it takes multiple positives to offset a single negative.

Researchers found that the negative bias of the brain is innately so strong that it takes multiple positives to offset a single negative.

A study of married couples, researchers found that, “That magic ratio is five to one. As long as there was five times as much positive feeling and interaction between husband and wife as there was negative, researchers found, the marriage was likely to be stable over time.”

Marano points out that these findings are not merely limited to marital relationships. “Other researchers have found the same results in other spheres of our life. It is the frequency of small positive acts that matters most, in a ratio of about five to one.”

Accepting good advice

As creatives, we need to accept, process and learn from negative input. This makes our work better. Yet, in order to stay motivated and lean into what’s working well, we also need to make an effort to receive, contemplate and take encouragement from positive feedback.

Like so many things in life, the secret is in finding and maintaining a healthy balance. If all we hear is positive feedback we will never improve. If all that we hear is negative feedback we may lose heart and give up altogether.

It is worth noting that when it comes to critiquing your video productions, all feedback is not equal. Seek out the opinions of persons who are qualified to offer us informed insights. It is wise for makers of media to seek out more experienced producers whose observations are based on genuine expertise. These people can offer valuable insight for improvement so as to make their criticism constructive in nature.

It is also imperative that we filter whatever feedback we receive. We must realize that our own biases may skew the way we hear and interpret both positive and negative remarks.

At the end of the day, you have to take the bad with the good. Just don’t forget to also take the good with the bad.

Matthew York
Matthew York
Matt York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.

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