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You 101: Why You Remember the Bad Stuff

The “negativity bias” is a well-recognized psychological phenomenon: our brains react to the bad more strongly than to the good.

When our thoughts wander, we'll end up brooding; the negativity bias also means that anxious, angry thoughts or memories grab our attention more consistently than happier or pleasant thoughts.

To find out what this means for your relationships

According to research on the negativity bias, it takes a ratio of 5 positives to make up 1 negative in a relationship. Studies show that a marriage is more likely to be stable over time if there are 5 times as much positive feeling and interaction between the spouses as negative experience or feeling.

The negativity bias is why one weird or angry exhange can dog you all day, no matter your partner might have cuddled you later, washed the dishes, and walked the dog: two shy. But seriously, while the research indicates that ratio is an aggregate, over the duration of a relationship and not a single day, it's something to keep in mind when possible; the days turn into years.

The research is very specific about the ratio, too, as there can be both too few and too many positive experiences -- too many may indicate a lack of healthy conflict, openness, and difference. Of course, the negativity bias doesn't pertain only to romantic relationships; there are indications that work relationships, family and friendships may depend on this ratio for their stability and health.

If you'd like to read more research about the negativity bias and marriage, click here.


t0xxic t0xxic 10 years
Next time my parents mention that I remember more bad things then good Ill just simply ask them to remind me of 5 good things. thanks
honeysugar28 honeysugar28 10 years
I'm guilty as sin!!!! But I think overtime and as I get older I get much better at this and willing to let things go. I want the happy times to overshadow the rough times.
Marci Marci 10 years
I agree that we remember the bad stuff. But I've also noticed that when a bad relationship ends, there's a twist in our brains that somehow blocks out all the bad and we only remember the good. This often leads to people moping over and trying to win back someone who actually treated them badly. I wonder why that is?
kendalheart kendalheart 10 years
Very interesting, last night my bf and I were discussing remembering the "bad" things rather than the "good".
grl-in-the-world grl-in-the-world 10 years
Interesting, this makes a lot of sense!
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