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The Optimism Bias: (Don’t) Stop Kidding Yourself

April 25th, 2018 1 comment

Imagine you’ve just finished a long, tiring week of classes. It’s a Saturday afternoon and you’ve decided to reward yourself with a lazy day. You make some popcorn, grab your laptop and pull up Netflix. You’re watching Grey’s Anatomy, and you’re in the middle of season 5. You are shocked to find out that Izzie, a young doctor on the show, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. You watch episode after episode until you reach the heart wrenching season finale when a different favorite character dies in a tragic accident. As you exhaust your box of tissues, you wonder how producer Shonda Rhimes concocts these episodes. You think about your own life and conclude that, at the end of the day, none of the tragedies in this medical soap opera could ever happen to you. You’ll never get sick like the fictitious characters of whom you’ve grown fond. You’ll never get in that car accident and wind up as a trauma patient. Bad things will not happen to you. If you’ve ever had a conversation like this with yourself- one in which you underestimate the likelihood that negative events will impact your life – you have demonstrated the optimism bias.

…or will it? (Taken from

The optimism bias is the cognitive bias that leads us to overestimate the likelihood that a positive event will happen in our lives and underestimate the likelihood that a negative event will occur in our futures (Sharot, 2011). Optimism, by definition, is the expectation that good things will happen. Pessimism refers to the expectation that bad things will happen. Read more…

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