Is bad truly stronger than good?


Bob Sutton, professor at Stanford’s MBA school and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst reviews a very interesting study, “Bad is stronger than good.”

Sutton chooses some excellent excerpts worth highlighting:

Let us briefly summarize the evidence. In everyday life, bad events have stronger and more lasting consequences than comparable good events. Close relationships are more deeply and conclusively affected by destructive actions than by constructive ones, by negative communications than positive ones, and by conflict than harmony. Additionally, these effects extend to marital satisfaction and even to the relationship’s survival (vs. breakup or divorce). Even outside of close relationships, unfriendly or conflictual interactions are seen as stronger and have bigger effects than friendly,harmonious ones. Bad moods and negative emotions have stronger effects than good ones on cognitive processing, and the bulk of affect regulation efforts is directed at escaping from bad moods (e.g., as opposed to entering or prolonging good moods). That suggests that people’s desire to get out of a bad mood is stronger than their desire to get into a good one. (p. 362)

Bad parenting can be stronger than genetic influences; good parenting is not. Research on social support has repeatedly found that negative, conflictual behaviors in one’s social network have stronger effects than positive, supportive behaviors. Bad things receive more attention and more thorough cognitive processing than good things. When people first learn about one another, bad information has a significantly stronger impact on the total impression than any comparable good information. (p.362)

Bad stereotypes and reputations are easier to acquire, and harder to shed, than good ones. Bad feedback has stronger effects than good feedback. Bad health has a greater impact on happiness than good health, and health itself is more affected by pessimism (the presence or absence of a negative outlook) than optimism (the presence or absence of a positive outlook). (p.362)

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