Recently, there has been heaps and heaps of bad news from all around the world. The planet seems to be engulfed in hatred and tragedy of one sort or another. The terror attacks in Istanbul, Baghdad, Nice, Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Germany and Japan, the horrific and unending war in Syria spilling over into other middle eastern countries, the military coup in Turkey, the people vs authorities violence in America and of course, the devastation for many due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit!
What happens when these events are played over and over, round the clock on radio and TV? How does that affect our psyche?
As humans we focus on the bad stuff. Threat information activates the fear system that works to shut down the rational part of our brain. In that fearful state we look out more bad news. Elaine Fox at the University of Oxford says, ”The sense of immediacy of 24-hours rolling news means the brain is saying ‘this is a real threat to me’.”
The vividness of the images can skew our sense of risk. Even if the possibility of us being involved in an incident of that nature is miniscule, it seems disproportionately large. This induces a state of stress which is constant.
The good news is that we adapt. Whatever the news, we get habituated to it.
A landmark study done in 1978 by Brickman et al showed that after 2 years, lottery winners and people paralysed in accidents showed little change in overall happiness, getting used to their new state. Other studies have shown similar results confirming that severe outcomes do not have as great an impact as might be expected.