Why is it easier to think negatively?

In the article, “Conquering Your Internal Critic So You Can Sing Your Own Song” posted on http://www.inspiremetoday.com , Jack N. Singer, Ph.D. Professional Psychologist, renowned Speaker and Consultant, references Dr. Shad Helmstetter’s fascinating statistic;
“By the time the average youngster reaches the age of eighteen, he or she has been told something negative or something critical by parents, teachers and other authority figures an average of 148,000 times!. During the same eighteen year time frame, this individual has only heard a few thousand positive comments. It is no wonder, therefore that with this ratio of 148,000 to 3,000 most of us are programmed to think negatively, to fear taking risks, and to be internally critical of ourselves each and every day.”

My personal experience as a Pastor and counselor confirms the above statistics.
For instance, I was having a chat with my wife recently and I asked her, “If I were to give you 100k now, what would you do with it?”
She paused for just a second and then in less than 3 minutes, I heard a list that would actually consume three times that amount! And the fascinating thing was that it would all be within an hour.
Then I asked her, “can you give me just 5 ideas on how I can make that kind of money in 24 hours?”

I guess you could imagine the rest…she paused for over 5 minutes; I actually never got an answer on that one.
So I told her, “Have you realized that it was easier for your mind to come out with ideas on how to consume 100k, than on how to create it?”
It was quite a learning experience for us. It actually left me thinking about why it’s easier to think destructively than creatively.

Is it just due to critical words by parents, teachers and other authority figures as we were growing up? Are there other factors that contribute to this condition?

In your own opinion, why do you think its easier for the human mind to think in negative terms than in positive terms?
We’d appreciate your comments.

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Failure leads to Success – meaning all Negative thoughts leads to Positive outcomes..

foodfor thought
foodfor thought

I think this explanation gives the parents too much credit. Let’s not forget that they too were children once, as were their parents. There is another explanation for our thinking patterns: it is because of the way our brains are wired. There is a part of the human brain called the amygdala, it’s sole function is to flag things and experiences as bad. The amygdala has proved extremely valuable for human survival. When a child touches a hot stove, the amygdala flags that object and experience as bad. The child learns to avoid hot stoves. This is the same survival device our ancestors used to learn avoidance of poisonous insects and dangerous animals. It is because our brains evolved with the goal of survival that we think in terms of what is bad (what to avoid) and what to consume (rather than create). It is natural for us to think this way. And while our powerful brains allow us to think differently, our predisposition is to think negatively. While our parents reinforce this thinking pattern, they do not cause it. Perhaps conditioning a child to think in positive terms would work, but it may have disasterous effects if the person… Read more »


I like to look on the bright side of things. Makes me feel better. I think most negative people or thoughts are to prevent someone from getting their hopes “too high”. What’s wrong with that. It’s called dreams!

Ben Moreno
Ben Moreno

This is a very interesting post. I think that you are taught so many negative things because every parent naturally feels compelled to tell their kids what not to do because they

1) Dont wish for them to do it.
2) Or two they know there is some consequence to doing it.

What is actually happening is the parent is conditioning the child to the world they live in because that is what their parents did to them.

If you don’t tell a child to run out in the street then the child will only be able to find out why he/she shouldn’t do that by getting hit by a car. By then it is too late.

As a parent myself I can tell you that a lot of times negative comments to my child comes from being annoyed by what the child is doing.

This is something I think every parent needs to work, which is trying to be more positive toward your kids. I know we all work hard and don’t always have the patience and mind set to always do what is best for the child but you should strive to do it.