Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the power of negative thinking

Last summer, Thierry Malleret and I published an Op-Ed in the New York Times/International Herald Tribune about the power of negative thinking

We took quite a different approach to the media treatment the Greek crisis received providing behavioural insights from psychology and neuroscience. Among other points we stressed the sort of default "binary" thinking mode most of the people spontaneously adopt and our strong tendency to favor explanations that do not challenge our beliefs:
"Although our brains do not function biologically in a dichotomous fashion, binary thinking is the brain’s favored method, as it is easier to categorize events in terms of success/failure, cooperation/competition, rational/irrational, etc."

"We tend to form opinions by falling back on intuitions or hunches and then look for confirmatory evidence to reinforce these. When someone confirms our views, they are reinforced in our brain’s reward system. Hence, we seek further evidence to validate those views, shutting off contradictory information."
Interestingly, the Japanese tsunami and subsequent crisis has also illustrated the power of negative thinking. And something tells me that the upcoming presidential elections (in France and the US) will provide even more examples of the power of negative thinking in slightly different context ...

Our NY Times Op-Ed can be read online here or downloaded (pdf format) here.

Thierry Malleret is a senior partner and head of research at IJ Partners one of the world's leading ealth management company based in Geneva.