Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Neuroscience Of Optimism from Huffington Post

By Christoph W. Kon

Ask a bride before walking down the aisle “How likely are you to get divorced?” and most will respond “Not a chance!” Tell her that the average divorce rate is close to 50 percent, and ask again. Would she change her mind? Unlikely. Even law students who have learned everything about the legal aspects of divorce, including its likelihood, state that their own chances of getting divorced are basically nil. How can we explain this?

Psychologists have documented human optimism for decades. They have learned that people generally overestimate their likelihood of experiencing positive events, such as winning the lottery, and underestimate their likelihood of experiencing negative events, such as being involved in an accident or suffering from cancer. Informing people about their statistical likelihood of experiencing negative events, such as divorce, is surprisingly ineffective at altering their optimistic predictions, and highlighting previously unknown risk factors for diseases fails to engender realistic perceptions of medical vulnerability. How can people maintain their rose-colored views of the future in the face of reality? Which neural processes are involved in people’s optimistic predictions?

For the full article please go here.

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