Spreading positivity

Photo by tango 48


A short paragraph from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:

In a more exhaustive study, a psychologist analyzed 558 emotion words – every one that he could find in the English language – and found that 62 percent of them were negative versus 38 percent positive. That’s a pretty shocking discrepancy. According to an old urban legend, Eskimos have 100 different words for snow. Well, it turns out that negative emotions are our snow.

This reminded me of an experiment I heard about in a Judgment and Decision-Making class. People were shown different words. Some were positive (Baby, Fun, Happiness, Kitten, Smile, Sweet, Friend) and some were negative (Fear, Bomb, Rude, Thief, Shark, Cancer, Weapon). Each word was shown for 13.3 milliseconds. They were then asked two questions:

  1. What was the word?
  2. Was it positive or negative?

Most of the people could not recognize the words. However, they were able to determine much more accurately, if the word was negative than when it was positive. One possible explanation is that by evolution, we are wired to better spot negative and threatening things. If you miss that berry on the tree, that’s a shame. If you miss the Saber Tooth Lion lurking behind you, you might die.

But we shouldn’t let the fact that negativity controls our language and sub-conscious to allow it to control our lives. It just means we have to work harder. To think more closely on how we say things. To make an effort and look for the sliver-lining, the bright spots and the part of the glass that is half full.

We are not in the Savanna any more. There are no lurking lions. We are dealing with people who feed off relationships. Positivity is a contiguous thing but so is negativity.

What are you spreading? I sure hope it’s positivity germs…



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