Tali Sharot: The optimism bias
Are we born to be optimistic, rather than realistic? Tali Sharot shares new research that suggests our brains are wired to look on the bright side — and how that can be both dangerous and beneficial.
Tali Sharot studies why our brains are biased toward optimism.
Why you should listen to her:
Optimism bias is the belief that the future will be better, much better, than the past or present. And most of us display this bias. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot wants to know why: What is it about our brains that makes us overestimate the positive? She explores the question in her book The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain.
In the book (and a 2011 TIME magazine cover story), she reviewed findings from both social science and neuroscience that point to an interesting conclusion: “our brains aren’t just stamped by the past. They are constantly being shaped by the future.” In her own work, she’s interested in how our natural optimism actually shapes what we remember, and her interesting range of papers encompasses behavioral research (how likely we are to misremember major events) as well as medical findings — like searching for the places in the brain where optimism lives. Sharot is a faculty member of the Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences at University College London.
“Hope isn’t rational, so why are humans wired for it?” Tali Sharot
Psychologists have long been aware that most people maintain an irrationally positive outlook on life. Tali Sharot—one of the most innovative neuroscientists at work today—takes this a step further. Optimism, she shows, may in fact be crucial to our existence.
In this absorbing exploration, Sharot 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
• how our optimistic illusions affect our financial, professional, and emotional decisions
With its cutting-edge science and its wide-ranging narrative, The Optimism Bias provides us with startling new insight into the workings of the brain and the major role that optimism plays in determining how we live our lives.
- Removing the Optimism Bias (the-scientist.com)
- Researchers identify brain region that generates optimism bias (wired.co.uk)
- How the brain filters bad news | Ian Sample (guardian.co.uk)