Study: People prefer bad news

Published: November 28, 2005 | 2854th good news item since 2003

New research conducted at Tel Aviv University reveals people remember, respond more to bad news published in media. ‘People are evil by nature, tend to gloat,’ researcher explains.

Readers find bad news in the media more interesting and than good news, a new research conducted by the Faculty of Management at the Tel Aviv University reveals. [Bad News : The Decline of Reporting, the Business of News, and the Danger to Us All]

According to the research, bad news is passed from one person to the other twice as fast. In addition, the number of people who receive word of a negative report in the media is almost five times greater than that of people who are informed of positive reports.

Conducted by Professor Jacob Hornik, who specializes in the research of marketing and advertising at the Faculty of Management at the university, and Rinat Sachi, a post-graduate student at the faculty, the research aimed at testing the reaction of media consumers to bad and good information.

The research was carried out in the framework of a broad academic project on the factors that influence the prospects of success or failure of new brand names.

In one of the questionnaires relayed to 160 Israeli directors, the participants were asked to bring to mind information on Israeli companies that was reported in the press.

The research revealed that the directors tended to remember the negative news published in the media regarding these companies, but that it was harder for them to think of positive news related to the same enterprises.

‘People are evil by nature’

The researchers also analyzed readers’ talkbacks to news posted on websites in Israel and abroad.

“We analyzed readers’ responses to good and bad news, and discovered that talkbacks to the negative reports were longer and more immediate than the responses to positive news,” Prof. Hornik said. [The Good News Is the Bad News Is Wrong]

And how do the researchers explain this phenomenon?

According to Hornik, there are several reasons for this tendency:

“The first reason is just plain maliciousness. The second is jealousy and lack of willingness to treat someone else’s successes favorably. It may also be revenge for a past incident, even if it was minor,” he explained.

“But I would say that the main reason is that human beings are evil by nature, eager to gloat, and jealous,” he pessimistically added.

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