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Why Are You So Optimistic?

Some 80% of humans share the cognitive trait of “optimism bias.”

“We’re more optimistic than realistic, but we are oblivious to the fact.”

This bias explains why you overestimate your chances of success and happiness and feel immune from negative events.

“Optimism is not only related to success, it leads to success.”

The optimism bias will lead you to achievements and helps fashion a healthier, happier life than realism does.

“To make any kind of progress, we need to be able to imagine a different reality, and then we need to believe that that reality is possible.”

Brain scans show that people smoothly assimilate positive information but have limited ability to process negative input, such as warning signs.

“The good news is that becoming aware of the optimism bias does not shatter the illusion.”

Awareness of the optimism bias does not eliminate its positive effects.



The Optimism Bias Book Cover The Optimism Bias
TED Conferences LLC
Tali Sharot
Cognitive Neuroscientist


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.

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