Bad gossip affects our vision as well as our judgment...and for good reason.
Scientists have done this in study after study. We know that images win the rivalry if they are brighter, if they have sharper contrast, and if they are strongly emotive, such as scary faces or disgusting scenes. This time, Anderson and Siegel showed that faces are more likely to dominate if they’re shown along with negative statements, rather than positive or neutral ones.
Any evolutionary psychologist will tell you negative info is seared into our brain first or at a stronger manner in order to protect us, so we don’t have to experience every negative person/situation to know it’s bad: we can ID it, assess it, avoid it and protect ourselves. So we think we see something that looks bad and go the other way, turns out - there’s more to it. What’s interesting about this lies in unconscious, innate activity:
“Hearing that a person stole, lied, or cheated makes it more likely that a perceiver will consciously see that structurally neutral but purportedly villainous face.” When given a choice, our brains prioritise those faces for conscious attention.
This is an important idea, and worth repeating: what we “see” isn’t simply dictated by the signals that travel from our eyes to our brain. Our brain processes these signals by smoothing out inconsistencies and focusing our attention on important details. via
This reflects the deeper meaning of why courts move cases into a new jurisdiction, and why certain people will be found guilty if they match our preconception of what a bad person should look like. May not sound PC, but imagine if we didn’t have any sort of filter. More importantly, it chimes the idea that our brain is a constant massive storm of activity and decisions that have been made, are being made that we are largely unaware of, and we just add and tweak things when they come to the surface to match the situation.