How To Fight the 'Power of Bad' and the 'Negativity Effect'

Human beings are designed to remember trauma more than joy, bad times more than good ones. But John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister have good news on the despair front.


It's not just in your head: When it comes to how we all experience life, "Bad is generally stronger than good." 

We remember trauma more than joy, we're brought down by criticism more than we're elevated by praise, and we pay more attention to bad news than good. 

A new book called The Power of Bad, by journalist John Tierney and psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, explores "the negativity effect," or the "universal tendency for negative events and emotions to affect us more strongly than positive ones." The negativity effect shapes everything we do, from our personal relationships to our careers to how we vote to what media we consume.

But The Power of Bad isn't one more cause for despair. Its subtitle is How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It, and it offers practical tips on all sorts of ways to approach life so that we can be happy, productive, and well-adjusted.

Nick Gillespie sat down with Tierney, a contributing editor at the Manhattan Institute's City Journal and a former New York Times columnist and reporter, to talk about the root causes of the negativity effect and how to combat it.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.