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UCL events news and reviews


Things seem brighter than they are

Matteo Farinella13 June 2012

I think my life is going to be better than yours. I will have more money, more success and live longer. This apparently doesn’t make me particularly arrogant, because when asked to rate themselves and their expectations, the majority of people place themselves in the top 25% of the population. Clearly some of us must be wrong, yet Tali Sharot argues that being wrong is not necessarily bad.

Optimism is defined as the tendency to overestimate positive outcomes and underestimate negative ones. As such, optimism is merely an illusion (just like the optical illusion above, where the balloon on the black background appears slightly brighter than the one on the white background, even if they are actually the same shade of grey). Then why do both human and non-human brains seem to be hard-wired for optimism? This is the question Dr Sharot tried to address in her talk, The optimism bias.