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If it seems as if you are surrounded by bad news, so much so that you cannot bring yourself to finish reading the paper, take heart. Apparently, reading to the end of the article may actually enable you to release yourself from the negative thought cycle and to continue your day with more upbeat spirits.
Researchers from the Tel Aviv University claim that repeated exposure to a negative event may prevent it from affecting you.
A bad mood has more knock-on effects than simply causing distress. It can slow reaction time and affect speech, writing and counting.
"A bad mood is known to slow cognition. We show that, counterintuitively, you can avoid getting into a bad mood in the first place by dwelling on a negative event," says Dr. Moshe Shay Ben-Haim, from the university's School of Psychological Sciences.
"If you look at the newspaper before you go to work and see a headline about a bombing or tragedy of some kind, it's better to read the article all the way through and repeatedly expose yourself to the negative information. You will be freer to go on with your day in a better mood and without any negative effects."
Feelings and emotions are difficult to study, as they are unique to the individual, but one of the most commonly used pyschological tests to evaluate emotions is the "emotional Stroop task."
But as every reader will have an emotional reaction to words, this speeds up or slows down our ability to name the color. In general, people are slower to identify the color of "negative" words, such as "terrorism," but quicker when the words are neutral, such as "table."
One explanation for this is that negative words are distracting, while another suggests we may feel threatened by the words.
In both cases, researchers surmise, the reason we are slower to identify the ink colors is because our mental resources are tied up elsewhere.
But neither of these theories explain why the effects persist. After the initial distraction or threat, one might expect people to identify the colors of neutral words without delay. Not so, say the researchers. They found that when people were shown the negative words, they continued to name the colors of neutral words more slowly.
However, if they were shown the same negative word twice in the same test, they were able to identify and name the color of neutral words without any delay.
The researchers suggest that seeing a negative word puts the participants in a bad mood but that repeated exposure to that word diffuses its power to upset or alarm.
This theory was supported by a questionnaire completed by the participants following the test. The investigators also found that the participants who had seen the negative word just once were also slower at completing the questionnaire.
They say their work could have an impact on our understanding of emotions and how we process cues from our environment.
Written by Belinda Weber
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
The Good News in Bad News, American Friends Tel Aviv University 25 November 2013. News release
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Weber, Belinda. "Repeated exposure to negative events may neutralize them." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 30 Nov. 2013. Web.
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Weber, B. (2013, November 30). "Repeated exposure to negative events may neutralize them." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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