Negativity bias is the tendency to give far more attention to negative details than positive ones.
Imagine that you saw two news articles. The first headline said “The weather is beautiful today!” While the second proclaimed that a dark storm was headed your way. Which would you click on?
Most likely the second, because you want to know how the storm may affect your day! It’s the same approach used by the media for years, urging viewers to stay tuned to hear how certain things might be dangerous or cause turmoil in their life.
Because we’ve evolved to react to threats, humans have developed what is called a “negativity bias.” Like Google, humans are pattern discovery machines; when something stands out, like a threat, our minds highlight it.
Nearly since the inception of media, negativity bias has been leveraged by the media to increase profits. There was a time it was called “yellow journalism” and often contained outright lies presented as facts in newspapers of the day. Conflicts and wars were often begun based on falsehoods presented in the press.
Now the act is most often used through clickbait headlines, sensationalism, and spin. Bad news still gets more attention, more clicks, and leads to more revenue for publications. Google search results also react to this pattern by giving people what they seemingly want – that often means more bad news.