The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot

Another book on my Amazon WishList – The Optimism Bias by Tari Sharot.

It seems that we are hard-wired to look “on the bright side of life” – even when evidence suggest life is a lot darker.

From a Guardian review of the book:

“People hugely underestimate their chances of getting divorced, losing their job or being diagnosed with cancer; expect their children to be extraordinarily gifted; envision themselves achieving more than their peers; and overestimate their likely life span (sometimes by 20 years or more).”

Read the extract by Tali Sharot in the Guardian article, which ends with this

“Why would our brains be wired in this way? It is tempting to speculate that optimism was selected by evolution precisely because, on balance, positive expectations enhance the odds of survival. Research findings that optimists live longer and are healthier, plus the fact that most humans display optimistic biases – and emerging data that optimism is linked to specific genes – all strongly support this hypothesis. Yet optimism is also irrational and can lead to unwanted outcomes. The question then is, How can we remain hopeful – benefiting from the fruits of optimism – while at the same time guarding ourselves from its pitfalls?”

“I believe knowledge is key. We are not born with an innate understanding of our biases. The brain’s illusions have to be identified by careful scientific observation and controlled experiments and then communicated to the rest of us. Once we are made aware of our optimistic illusions, we can act to protect ourselves. The good news is that awareness rarely shatters the illusion. The glass remains half full. It is possible, then, to strike a balance, to believe we will stay healthy, but get medical insurance anyway; to be certain the sun will shine, but grab an umbrella on our way out — just in case.”

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