Problem summary

We have a tendency to pay more attention and give more weight to negative than positive experiences or other kinds of information.

Usage

Solution

Bad is stronger than good. Negative information will attract our attention more than positive information will.

When deciding on what information is presented to users of your system, consider the fact that negative information or design elements with a negative tone will ring more attention than positive information and design will.

You can utilize this fact in your design by paying great attention to what negative feedback is presented to the user. Is it really important? Does it bring the users closer to their goal(s)? If you want users to pay attention to positive information, be careful not to let negative feedback outshine the positive.

Rationale

We pay more attention and give more weight to negative feedback than positive.

As we’ve seen with loss aversion, we work much harder to avoid losing $100 than we will work to gain the same amount – and painful experiences (loss) are much more memorable than pleasurable ones (gain). But whereas loss aversion refers to negative values, the negativity bias refers to negative information1.

Discussion

The negativity bias is also the reason political smear campaigns outpull positive ones. Nastiness just makes a bigger impact on our brains. Your brain is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news2.

Sources

1 Negativity bias at wikipedia.org

2 Our brain’s negative bias at psychologytoday.com


User Interface Design Patterns