Does Your Relationship Have a Strong Negativity Bias?
A common thread in my couples therapy practice with those who struggle to make change is a strong negativity bias. The needle on the “Geiger counter” of their relationship is bouncing up and down in the red. In the worst cases, they are hostile, adversarial, mistrusting and believe they are experts on each other, convinced that they “know” exactly how the other feels. And it’s not good.
“He doesn’t even like me.”
“She has one foot out of the marriage.”
“He wishes he would have married ___.”
“She is only staying in the marriage because of our child.”
In psychology-speak, a “negativity bias” refers to the neuroscience of feeling threatened. Rick Hanson, PhD explains below:
“In your brain, there are separate (though interacting) systems for negative and positive stimuli. Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intense (e.g., loud, bright) positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly. For example, people in studies can identify angry faces faster than happy ones; even if they are shown these images so quickly (just a tenth of a second or so) that they cannot have any conscious recognition of them, the ancient fight-or-flight limbic system of the brain will still get activated by the angry