Why Little Things Piss Us Off So Much

Why Little Things Piss Us Off So Much

For some reason, the most minor details or events can irritate us for days. As it turns out, our brains may be better calibrated to recover from major shocks than from smaller ones. These smaller shocks don't trigger the brain's mechanism for recovery, and so they can feel disproportionately bad.

Picture: Ryan Hyde/Flickr

Oliver Burkeman writes at The Guardian:

This anomaly is known as the "region-beta paradox" (I could explain why, but your time, like the supply of purple carrots, is limited) and was first described 10 years ago, in a paper entitled The Peculiar Longevity of Things Not So Bad, by the psychologist Dan Gilbert and colleagues. When truly bad things happen, they cross a threshold, triggering mechanisms that help us to recover. To use one of Gilbert's examples: if a woman discovers her husband has been having an affair, she may draw on all her powers of rationalisation, convincing herself it was something he had to get out of his system, or that it's a crisis from which they will emerge stronger. By contrast, if his only fault is leaving dirty dishes in the sink, her cognitive defences won't kick in. So her anger at the lesser failing may bubble longer.

Relatively small shocks don't trigger the brain's mechanism to help us recover. This explains why we get upset over even the smallest things, and why we can be much more resilient when it comes to major changes.

Getting upset over trivial matters? There's a rational explanation [The Guardian]


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