Here's your headline: "Men think of sex every seven seconds." Here's your facts. "Ohio State researchers report it is on average only 19 times a day."
What's the difference? The headline [ the conventional wisdom among most women and editors thinking about sex ] is a grabber, because it is deliciously negative. The facts [ less dramatic ] have less grab, because they're a tad less sensational so they make page two.
Does this suggest fiction sells better than facts? You can get an argument. However, check the latest sensational headlines. Obama has love child...! Gingrich admits 5th wife...! Iran prepares for war...! Jennifer plots Angelina murder...! Parents have small to zero effect on their children...!
The first four headlines were lies, but that fifth was fact-spun-by-fiction. In his National Review article, economist Bryan Caplan qualifies it: "While parent-child relationship has a substantial effect on how children feel and remember their parents. it has little or no effect on overall personality and happiness."
Negative or fictionalized reports have been humanity's baseline definition of "News" from the first stone tablet. Why? Plenty of theories. The most popular is bad news appeals to our conscious curiosity about the unusual and to our subconscious need to feel superior.
Here's a test. See how many op-ed pages compliment vs critique their subject. Count how often the sports page reports harmony vs friction on the team. Notice how the weather page loves impending doom reports vs giving short shrift to another nice day.
So here's a thought. Whenever we say "have a nice day," aren't we really thinking "hope mine is nice but it sure would be interesting if yours and the others was a little wild and woolly!"
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