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The Scientific Reason We Can't Get Enough 'Negative News'

It's also why Oprah says she left the news business.

04/21/2016 08:20 am ET

If it bleeds, it leads. But why are we so fixated on the scary, awful, sensational news of the day? Journalist and psychologist Daniel Goleman explains the scientific reason we give more attention to negative stories over positive ones.

"The headline news -- these deaths, train wreck here, hurricane there -- is about threats," Goleman says in the above clip from "SuperSoul Sunday." "It's about things that scare us and that we need to be prepared for."

These types of stories, he says, cater to a primitive part of our brains called the limbic system. "It's the emotional brain," he explains. "And the news is constantly pumping out the bad stuff for that."

Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, experienced this first-hand while working as a science reporter at The New York Times. That's where he began his exhaustive research on how our brains regulate emotions.

The headline news -- these deaths, train wreck here, hurricane there -- is about threats. It's about things that scare us and that we need to be prepared for. Daniel Goleman

Oprah, who began her career in broadcasting as a local television reporter, agrees with Goleman about news media.

"[The news is] set up to create fear," she says. "It's a fear machine."

It's why Oprah says she decided to leave news reporting behind. "I personally felt that it was not in flow with my spirit. Because I felt every day I'm going out and I'm coming up with the worst story to try to attract people to watch."

While the leading news stories are focusing on what's wrong in the world, Goleman says we're missing what's right. In his book, A Force for Good, he writes, "On any day of the year, the denominator of kindness will be vastly greater than the numerator of cruelty."

Kindness, he says, is everywhere. "It's what people do for the people they love, who they care about, or just being considerate," Goleman says. "Being civil. And there's so much more of that going on in any given minute than the things that make the headlines. But you see, the brain perceives it disproportionately because it's headline news."

Oprah sums up what Goleman is saying: "Our brain handles or remembers negative better than it does positive."

"SuperSoul Sunday" airs Sundays at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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