March 13th, 2008

At work, Self portrait

Why news are bad for (some of) you

I am reading a popular science book (of somewhat mixed quality) which incidentally alerted me to a rather obvious fact about how our brains work. Bad news sell better than good news because they set off an alarm reaction in the deep, primal parts of the brain. Even though the bad news are not an immediate threat to the body, they wake up the amygdala and cause an alert reaction. This makes the news seem like a priority. (On the other hand, the same effect makes it hard to remember the news afterwards, when all looks peaceful and quiet again. Most people are able to recite at best a couple news item from a radio news broadcast, probably a bit more from a well illustrated TV broadcast.) The net effect is that there gradually accumulates a feeling of being surrounded by threats. The world is a dangerous place and going to hell in a handbasket. Then when people can't sleep at night for worry, they have to take medication.

On a related note: