Why do our brains replay bad memories easier than good ones?


Like when we’re about to fall asleep, it seems more common that we fixate on bad memories instead of happy ones

In: Biology

Because people deep down inside believe that things that are wrong or bad experiences that you can do better next time are more worth thinking about than things that went just fine.

Your brain saves bad memories because, from a survival aspect, they’re more important than good memories.

For our ancestors, being able to clearly remember a bad situation that caused a bad outcome, like getting hurt or sick or someone getting injured was super helpful and important to help us avoid those situations in the future.

So our brain prioritizes remember “bad” or dangerous things. Anecdotally my earliest memory is when my dad set a sandwich wrapped in Tinfoil on fire in my childhood kitchen when I was maybe 3-4, and then had to run through the kitchen with the burning sandwich to take it outside. That dangerous/scary memory is saved in my brain.

Modern humans don’t have to deal with as many survival situations, but our brains still operate the same with with Bad social scenarios. Remembering the bad ones to learn from them and avoid them in the future.

Because, for survival, it’s far more important to avoid danger than it is to seek out rewards. Same reason we have loss aversion.

It only takes one tiger mauling to kill you, conversely it takes a *lot* of missed opportunities to cause starvation.