The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain
“an intelligently written look into why most people take an optimistic view of life. . . . stimulating discussion . . . in easily understood language . . . fascinating trip into why we prefer to remain hopeful about our future and ourselves.”
The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by Tali Sharot is an intelligently written look into why most people take an optimistic view of life. Specifically, Dr. Sharot discusses the reasons why we may have an optimistic attitude, even when logic may tell us otherwise.
This “optimism bias” is a tendency by people to discount the possibility of future negative events and to overestimate the possibility of future positive events. For example, we imagine that we will retire at an early age, have a long-lasting marriage and successful children, and do not believe that we have an increased chance of getting cancer or incurring misfortune.
A trained psychologist and neuroscientist, Dr. Sharot uses her own expertise and research by other experts to explore the answers to several topics related to the optimism bias, which affects how we make decisions. Such issues as anticipation (or dread), altered preferences, and impulsiveness are all affected by how optimistic we are. We prefer to get unpleasant things over with quickly, but enjoy savoring the anticipation of an enjoyable event.
Similarly, Dr. Sharot provides compelling evidence that once we make a choice between two equally pleasant things, we prefer the item we have chosen—even though, prior to choosing, we may have had no preference between the two. (To feel otherwise would lead to cognitive dissonance, as behavioral scientists posited decades ago.)
As well, impulsiveness is guided by how optimistic a person generally is. Studies have shown that a more impulsive person tends to be much more optimistic and to favor short-term gains and fulfillment rather than future gains.
Readers of The Optimism Bias will appreciate Dr. Sharot’s thoughtful and well-written text, stimulating discussion of scientific findings in easily understood language, and fascinating trip into why we prefer to remain hopeful about our future and ourselves.