Why are we so terrible at predicting what will make us happy? How do we maintain such stalwart optimism about our future in the face of so many modern threats?
Psychologists have long been aware that most people maintain an often irrationally positive outlook on life. Now it looks as though optimism may, in fact, be crucial to our existence. But does unrealistic optimism also threaten it as well?
People tend to overestimate their odds of professional success, expect their children to be extraordinarily gifted, believe they will live longer than they do, and hugely underestimate their chance of divorce, cancer and unemployment.
Acclaimed neuroscientist Tali Sharot’s experiments and research in cognitive science have shed new light on the biological basis of optimism, and she visits the RSA to take an in-depth look at how the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails.
Chair: Jonathan Rowson, leader of the Social Brain Project, RSA
Listen to the podcast of the full talk: thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2012/the-optimism-bias