Studies have shown how we are more likely to remember negative events than good ones, which may be a factor in the media’s focus on bad news. But good news does more than simply cheer us up; new research shows how it also affects behaviour and benefits society
While reciting the epitaph of Julius Caesar in an intense moment of the Shakespearean play, Anthony says: “…the evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones”. This statement could be just a brilliant theatrical example of Roman public speaking, however, what Anthony says seems to be true for a lot of us.
In fact, several studies show that the majority of people are more likely to remember being hurt or unfairly treated by others rather than remember when they have experienced kindness and generosity.
This could be one of the explanations behind a bias in much news reporting. The status quo in journalism is to consider bad news such as terrorism, murder or natural disasters more newsworthy and attractive to readers than positive stories. Although it may be true that negative stories have a greater power in human memories than the good ones, there is no scientific evidence showing that people prefer bad news.
On the contrary, several studies show that good news has a strong positive psychological and social impact on people. According to research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when people are experiencing acts of extraordinary moral goodness they can experience ‘moral elevation’, a psychological condition that contributes to the development of positive thoughts and emotions such as admiration, affection, and love. It can even cause physical reactions that cause a lasting influence on people’s future actions.