The Negativity Effect & Standing Out

Why are we devastated by a word of criticism even when it’s mixed with lavish praise? Because our brains are wired to focus on the bad. This negativity effect explains things great and small: why countries blunder into disastrous wars, why couples divorce, why people flub job interviews, how schools fail students, why football coaches stupidly punt on fourth down. All-day long, the power of bad governs people’s moods, drives marketing campaigns, and dominates news and politics. Eminent social scientist Roy F. Baumeister stumbled unexpectedly upon this fundamental aspect of human nature. To find out why financial losses mattered more to people than financial gains, Baumeister looked for situations in which good events made a bigger impact than bad ones. But his team couldn’t find any. Their research showed that bad is relentlessly stronger than good, and their paper has become one of the most-cited in the scientific literature. Our brain’s negativity bias makes evolutionary sense because it kept our ancestors alert to fatal dangers, but it distorts our perspective in today’s media environment. The steady barrage of bad news and crisis mongering makes us feel helpless and leaves us needlessly fearful and angry. We ignore our many blessings, preferring to heed—and vote for—the voices telling us the world is going to hell. Noted science journalist and co-author, John Tierney talks with Norman B about The Power Of Bad – How the Negative Effect Rules Us And How We Can Rule It.


Jamie Mustard is an avid consumer of popular culture, he is also a graduate of the London School of Economics. And, he is obsessed with the “economics of attention”. In his fascinating book, The Iconist – The Art And Science Of Stranding Out, Mr. Mustard discusses why the rise of digital media, advertising and the constant barrage of information makes it difficult to be seen and heard. The branding and design strategist explains how individuals, organizations, and brands can break through the noise. He says the secret to standing out lies in creating content that the desired audience will “lock” onto and remember with little effort – simple, bold ideas that can be immediately understood. He blends relevant examples from history and pop culture with cutting-edge psychology, Mustard explores why certain things stick and others fade from memory – as examples, he asks, “Why do we immediately recognize art by Van Gogh and Warhol? What does Beethoven share with Rage Against the Machine and Madonna? What makes us remember the words of Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King Junior (and Domino’s Pizza, for that matter)?” Jamie Mustard is an animated conversationalist, his interaction with Norman B will certainly prompt you to reassess your ideas on Standing Out.

Show #358