Why is negativity used so often in marketing and politics?

“Our ancestors had to pay a lot of attention to bad news,” states Rick Hanson in his TED talk. The more primitive part of our brain looks for problems to solve to keep us safe. It was essential in that lifestyle to remember where there was danger or a lack of food. This negativity-bias is normal and helpful…to a point.

In today’s world, marketers, leaders and politicians know problems will get our attention. They speak our negative thoughts, leading us to believe they are the truth, to believe we need their product or leadership to fix things.

The problem is, our brain will search for potential problems as well. We think of what might happen if we make a mistake, yet our thoughts are not reality. Our body reacts the same to these potential problems, though, so they seem very real. Again, helpful…to a point!

This works especially well in health and fitness marketing because our ancestors’ physical capability meant safety and survival. If you were physically unfit in some way, not only was your safety threatened but your tribe’s safety as well. Talk about peer pressure!

before and after

Seriously! Look at these before and after pictures. Notice the difference in facial expression, in body stance. Why is the lighting different? Yes, there was certainly a change, but marketers know how to highlight the negative.  Our brain sees the “desired” picture. If it does not match what we see in the mirror, our sub-conscious brain says “uh oh, problem! We better fix this!”

As Rick Hanson also notes, the more we focus on the negative, the faster our brain goes to problem mode. The good news is we can train our brain for a positivity bias (see Dr. Hanson’s TED talk to find out how).

When we are in alarm mode, though, this primitive part of our brain hijacks the more evolved part of our brain. We need to calm the alarm first to regain access to our logical brain. Mindfulness means to see clearly. Movement calms the body and reassures the brain that the body is capable. Mindful movement allows us to rise above the madness and see what is real and true.

Before turning on social media, casting a vote, making a purchase, take a mindful movement pause. Override the negativity bias and outsmart the ones who are using it for their own gain!

May You Be Well,


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher