Diversity of Negativity

Whoever contributes to a new human being’s beginning to exist is co-responsible for the existence of a being that lives in a world in which negative entities and events display a broader spectrum of variation than do positive ones – a being, in other words, whose repertoire of reactions corresponds to this greater diversity of the negative and who appears, therefore, better able, also conceptually, to represent negative things and occurrences than positive ones. When their children begin to talk this is always an occasion for the parents to celebrate. But these children become members of a community of language whose vocabulary for the description of corporeal pain is clearly a much subtler and more variegated one than that which describes the more pleasant bodily sensations (see Paul Rozin and Edward B. Royzman, Negativity Bias, p. 296–320, esp..p. 310f.) Already Wilhelm Wundt wrote, in his 1896 “Outline of Psychology”: “Clearly, language has created a far greater variety of names for negative affects than for positive, pleasurable ones. And in fact all observations suggest that it is probably the case that these negative, unpleasurable affects do indeed display a greater diversity in their typical manners of running their course, that is to say, they probably really are of a greater variety.”

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