The more you watch and read the news, the more distorted you view of the world. Sounds scary and implausible? Edition BBC figured out why this is happening.
Before tragedy struck, Alison Holman worked on a study of the mental health of Americans. And on April 15, 2013, when hundreds of runners crossed one after another the finish line of the annual Boston marathon, with an interval of 10 seconds was detonated two homemade bombs.
Three people, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed. Hundreds were wounded. 16 people lost limbs.
The world mourned, and the media, meanwhile, in creepy detail covered the incident. And lighting it lasted not a day or two, and not even a month, but years, if you count the subsequent trial.
Footage of the moment of the explosion, smoke, confusion and horror were present, was broadcast many times on television. Newspapers published terrible pictures: blood-stained sidewalks, the victims in torn clothes.
And it just so happens that Holman with colleagues from the University of California, Irvine just before finished to collect data about the mental state of about 5 million Americans. Scientists decided to watch a few weeks later, as the changed status of the respondents in connection with the Boston tragedy.
It is easy to guess that the mental health of those who attended the scene of a terrorist act or has suffered from it, to put it mildly, not improved. And, by the way, among the study participants was those who were at the scene.
But an unexpected turn: the psyche of those respondents who were not present at the scene personally, but later I watched the news on this subject for six or more hours a day for the next week, suffered even more.
A high level of stress was not directly related to the fact that people knew someone who died, were injured or were present at the site of the explosions.
“For us it was a kind of Epiphany, says Homan. — I think people very much underestimate the impact of news”.
It seems that the news is much more than a harmless list of the incident and found by reporters of the facts. News make their way to our subconscious and affect our lives in a most peculiar way.
They can change our attitude towards immigrants can invade our dreams, prevent us to see the real risk of a particular disease form a view on what is happening in another country. And even can affect the health of the economy of the entire state.
More and more evidence that the emotional consequences of news consumption can affect our health, increasing the chances of heart attack or the development of diseases in later years.
And most importantly, you only need a few hours of media consumption a day. How does it happen? As soon as began to arrive the first news from China about a mysterious new coronavirus, the ratings of news programs, the number of viewers went up, eventually reaching record numbers.
And this is understandable: millions of people are strictly followed by government briefings, constantly updated data on the number of infected and dead, with the announcement of new rules of behavior during the quarantine.
However, in the court 2020, and TV news is not the only or even main source of information for us.
Podcasts, streaming services, social networks — all ready to send you notifications about updates many times a day. Your friends send you links to the materials they liked it, they are shocked.
It is not surprising that cook in the broth news all day, in the evening you can not calm down and close his eyes.
According to 2018, the obtained long before the pandemic has forced us to be alone at home, average American daily spent around 11 hours looking at the TV, computer or smartphone. Many of us take with a phone or tablet in bed going to sleep.
We understand that in this lifestyle it is impossible to avoid information about events occurring in the world.
So we are programmed
One possible reason for the strong influence of news is something that psychologists have long been called the tendency to negative: we pay much more attention to everything bad that happens around us.
It is believed that this tendency evolved to protect us from danger. It explains why the failure of man is more prominent than its positive sides, why the loss affects us more than gaining, and why fear motivates us stronger than new prospects.
Governments are often guided by it in formulating a particular policy, when you have to decide what to use — the whip or the carrot. Unfortunately, negative incentives are working in the community more effectively.
The tendency of mankind to the negative, perhaps, explains the fact that the news is rarely pleasant reading.
One day in 2014, the Russian website “municipal reporter” has decided to conduct an experiment and reported all day long about the good news, ignoring bad.
Readership for that day abruptly, almost two-thirds, fell — good news not interesting to anyone. As once said a famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, the Newspapers of Utopia would be boring.
How the extra dose of negativity affects our beliefs?
Scientists have long known that large sections of the population tend not to look forward to anything good when it comes to the economy’s prospects — although in reality this prediction has nothing to do with reality.
Economic cycles (recurring fluctuations in economic activity, from the downs to the UPS) is one of the cornerstones of the modern economy, confirmed by decades of research and experience.
Thus, the view that in the future everything will be worse, simply wrong. And, in addition, potentially harmful. Because if people believe that they have in five years there will be no work, no money, they won’t invest in the economy.
Taken to extremes, our collective pessimism can turn into samovoleva prophecy, and there is some evidence that some of the blame news — specifically how they reported.
For example, in the study of 2003, it was discovered that economic news are more often bad than good, and this news coverage is an important indicator of the expectations of the people.
Another study conducted in the Netherlands, confirmed that the coverage of economic news often paints a much more grim picture, diverging from the real economic situation.
This constant negativity leads to the formation of a wrong picture of the economic health of the country.
Not so long ago the authors of one study even suggested that coverage of news media increases the periods of economic growth or economic decline.
News accidentally distort our view of reality — and not necessarily for the better. Here’s another example — this time about our perception of risk.
Take international tourism. As a rule, people do not really exploding in those countries where there is political instability, war or high risk of becoming a victim of terrorism.
In some cases, the news become a source of direct consultation on this issue by publishing recommendations of the government — as, for example, during a global pandemic.
But even when official recommendations not to go somewhere is not (and is not even rational reasons not to go), the news can influence our subconscious mind, inducing to erroneous view of the world and events.
One reason for this can be considered a so-called effect of framing, of framing, the context in which is delivered the fact or event.
For example, a drug that is “effective in 95% of cases” is much more positive than the same drug that “does not work in 5% of cases”, although we are talking about the same drug. But — and this is also not observed today, we do not always think rationally.
You can write that “a terrorist attack committed by “al-Qaeda” and related radical Islamist groups” and it will sound much more alarming than “local separatist groups”, although it would be about the same. Sometimes these subtle factors can have consequences of life and death.
In one study of 2014 it became clear: people generally think that those types of cancer that wider media coverage (e.g., brain tumors), more widespread than it actually is. And, accordingly, those which are written less frequently (for example, cancers of the reproductive organs in men) and less likely to happen.
The paradox is that those people who consume more news are usually the most distorted vision of the world. This can lead to the fact that they risk their health, for underestimating the risk of a disease.
And that’s not all. Public perceptions about the dangers of a particular type of cancer can cause studies more dangerous cancer does not receive the necessary funding from the government (which is also guided by the mood in society and in the media).
Finally, more evidence that news can creep into our dreams.
Say that many people who are forced to stay at home in isolation, began to see an unusually vivid and sometimes frightening dreams.
One explanation is the result of our imagination, which seeks a way out of the situation, Talon. The other just now, we better remember their dreams, because often Wake up in the middle of REM sleep, during which we see dreams.
But there is another possible cause: this occurs due to the pandemic depicted in the news.
Recall that after the attacks on the USA of 11 September, people also had a bad dream. And the connection between such dreams and how often people watched television news, has been clearly established.
“In the case of radio or discussion of the incident in conversations with friends and family, this was not, emphasizes Ruth Propper, a psychologist at the University of Montclair (new Jersey), who led the study. — I believe that the reason telemetry to the death — they caused a psychological trauma”.
News darker than real life
And actually, to paraphrase science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, we can say that to wallow in misery seven billion people is not very good for your psyche.
After months of continuous bombardment of headlines about Covid-19 there are signs of an impending crisis coronavirus anxiety.
Help people with problems of the psyche charitable organizations around the world celebrate the unprecedented demand for their services. Many people just for a while refuse from social networks to protect themselves from the flow of news.
Although in part this stress meets the new reality we were in a pandemic, psychologists have long noticed that news in itself should add an extra dose of poison.
This is proven by the study of the effects of the many crises: the more news a person consumes, the higher the probability that he will develop symptoms of stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
How the news affects our psyche, and partly remains a psychological mystery, since in most cases they do not affect us directly.
And when affect (as shown by studies of cases such as the bombings at the Boston marathon), the coverage can be for our psyche more harmful than reality itself.
This can be explained by the so-called emotional forecasting — attempts to predict our future feelings about something.
According to Rebecca Thompson, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, most of us are quite confident in their ability to predict their feelings. “For example, if you are asked to imagine how you will feel tomorrow when you learn that he won the lottery, you will surely think that you will have a good mood,” she says.
But when you start to talk to people after important in their lives the event has happened, it turns out that it had a much weaker influence on their emotions than they expected.
In considered a classic 1978 study compared the life satisfaction levels of those whose life recently changed dramatically in respect of winning large sums in the lottery, and those who had an accident and was paralyzed. Raffle the lucky winners were only slightly happier than the accident victims.
If very briefly, that we poorly represent themselves and their emotions in the future, as a rule, a mistake in forecasts.
About the same occurs and in the days of crises. As Thompson explains, in the moment, many people are probably fixated on the future troubles. And this error leads to unhealthy behavior.
“If you are really concerned about a real threat to your life, you will inevitably try to learn about it as much as possible, to understand in which direction things are developing,” notes Thompson. And this leads us into the trap of congestion news.
Those who believe that events reflect poorly on their psyche and health in General, as a rule, and as a result suffer from it, and, according to Thompson, is largely responsible for this is the amount of stress information sunk person.
It indicates that, for the most part, covered events in the spirit of increased sensationalism: if we are talking about a hurricane, on television reporters wind blows or they are knee-deep in water — the emphasis is on the worst case scenario.
In fact, such reports are pushing us to a devastating look not only at a particular event, but everything else in our lives — from Finance to romance.
In a 2012 study revealed that women (but, strangely, not men) exposed to the stream of negative news, experienced more stress in other situations that led to the spikes in cortisol, the stress hormone, in their body.
“Men are usually and so quite high levels of cortisol, so it’s possible that they simply have nowhere to improve,” — said Marie-France Marin, a psychologist from the University of Quebec (Montreal), author of the study.
However, women have better memory on all the negative, so to them, apparently, it’s really a stronger impact.
Bad news have the ability to become more frequent palpitations, and there are worrying signs that this could have serious long-term consequences for human health.
When Holman and his colleagues studied the psychological consequences of the events of 9/11, it was found that those who reported heart palpitations in those days, with a probability of 53% higher faced with cardiovascular problems in the next three years, even if we take into account their previous condition.
In one of the more recent research, scientists tried to understand whether the news themselves are to be blame for this, and found that four or more hours of news a day about what happened on September 11, 2001, with a high probability guarantee health problems in the following years.
“What is especially noteworthy in that study, the majority received information about the attacks solely from the media, emphasizes Holman. — And yet it had such a long lasting effect on their health. I suspect that there’s something else that played a role in this, but we have not yet realized it”.
But why are we so strongly influenced by the events taking place with unknown people who are from us at a distance, sometimes thousands of miles?
At Holman there are several assumptions, and one of them is to blame bright picture of television news.
And sometimes TV can run in the background — for example, in the gym. Holman says that all the time when the reporter talked about the incident, aired the same footage, again and again.
“The cycle of images penetrates into your brain, it is repeated, repeated, repeated. While we look not a horror movie, the plot is fictional, we show real life! And I suspect that this looped repetition is the reason that news affect us,” says Holman.
Holman stressed that the news coverage has never been only the event messages one after the other. It’s kind of a form of entertainment to which the media resorted to competing with each other in the fight for our precious time.