It’s the tendency to put more attention, value and weight on negative comments and experience than on the positive. It’s human. We seem to be hardwired to do it. Some theorists suggest that our survival depended on it when we were living in primitive times. People who didn’t stay alert for saber-toothed tigers probably didn’t get to see another day. Those who missed out on a positive opportunity got to try again tomorrow.
But the tendency to focus on problems didn’t end when we got out of the caves. In a recent article in Cato’s Letter, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker names it the psychology of pessimism. For a number of reasons, he says, people hang on to bad news and minimize the good.