The Optimism Bias

The Optimism Bias

A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain

Book - 2011
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From one of the most innovative neuroscientists at work today, an investigation into the bias toward optimism that exists on a neural level in our brains and plays a major part in determining how we live our lives.
Psychologists have long been aware that most people maintain an often irrationally positive outlook on life. In fact, optimism may be crucial to our existence. Tali Sharot's experiments, research, and findings in cognitive science have contributed to an increased understanding of the biological basis of optimism. In this fascinating exploration, she takes an in-depth, clarifying look at how the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails; how the brains of optimists and pessimists differ; why we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy; how emotions strengthen our ability to recollect; how anticipation and dread affect us; and how our optimistic illusions affect our financial, professional, and emotional decisions.
With its cutting-edge science and its wide-ranging and accessible narrative, The Optimism Bias provides us with startling new insight into the workings of the brain.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2011
ISBN: 9780307378484
Branch Call Number: 612.82 S531o 2011
Characteristics: xvii, 245 p. ; 22 cm


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Jun 23, 2019

I see another another reviewer was disappointed with this book- complained of it being too 'academic', yet lacking in information (how can it be both?).
I suggest that review revealed more about the reviewer than the books content. The book I read was an excellent summary of contemporary research into optimism, that hit the sweet spot between overly technical and uselessly vague (tho in mid-book the discussion on dopamine would be a bit dense for some).
She understressed or simply didn't mention at all (did i gloss over a critical section?) two points. First, that people love being optimistic, love wearing rose-colored glasses because for most of us, if it feels good, it is good; period. That approach has sharp limits: e.g. "i love eating candy so candy is Good, or, 'I'm a pedophile so raping children is "good"'. And second, if it doesn't kill you, optimism is, actually, better, because it leads to trying more things, some of which must actually succeed. Select memory explains the rest - we just conveniently forget the flops and focus on the wins.
Finally, in the real world, words speak louder than actions. You can be a thorough villain- do destructive things, but if you speak 'positive' words while smiling, people are quite convinced. Consider Justin Trudeau!
The icing on this tasty cake: it's short, compact.

Oct 31, 2011

This is a more academic presentation of this subject than expected and therefore, not as practical or readable as hoped.
I wanted to learn about the human optimism that causes us to believe politicians, compulsive liars, and product claims. Though I labored through the entire book in hopes I'd discover it, I was left to scour the text for limited practical insights. Hopefully a following text or related article will elaborate on these issues.


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