How negative news shapes our perceptions


Whenever you buy a lottery ticket, your expectation is that you will win.

However, the reality is that your chances of winning are so infinitesimally small that you are virtually assured of losing.

Yet people buy lottery tickets over and over again and lose again and again.

So why do they do it? They do it because their expectations are contrived; they have been shown images of winners.

They never get to see the images of the millions of people who have to lose in order to create that one winner.

Assuming that the survey was perfectly scientific, undoctored, and entirely legitimate, the question we want to ask is: were the reported feelings contrived or do they reflect the reality of our circumstances?

In other words, are we, in actual fact, headed in the wrong direction or are our perceptions shaped by the negative images we have seen?


In the months leading up to the survey, the media was awash with reports of one crises after another — the teachers’ strike, the cash flow problem in government, the increase in interest rates, the weakening of the shilling against the dollar, the goings on at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, numerous reports of corruption in the government, the incessant demands for Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru to step aside, and the collective demand by 11 Western ambassadors for action against graft.

Without a doubt, Kenyans have seen many negative images about their country, government, themselves, and their leaders.

Is it any wonder that 62 per cent of them feel that Kenya is headed in the wrong direction?

In the lottery analogy, perhaps there would not be so many ticket buyers if people saw the images of millions of losers.

Using the same logic, were the feelings and expectations reported by the Infotrak survey shaped by the recent media images?


Do they reflect the reality of our circumstances? Does the answer lie in exposing the public to new images of positive events in contrast to the negative ones painted so far?

This should be the responsibility of the ruling government, but here are a few examples of positive outcomes.

One, the teachers’ strike was resolved through due process of the law.

It demonstrated our ability to work within the law to resolve our disagreements.

Two, the cash flow problem within government is a permanent one as cash demands are always ahead of revenue flows, particularly in the first half of the year.

Three, interest rates have come down. Four, the shilling is reported to have done better than other currencies in the region.