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Tali Sharot: How Cognitive Biases Bend Reality: Private Optimism vs. Public Despair

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Think you’re not an optimist? Neuroscience begs to differ. Dr. Tali Sharot explains that 80% of people globally present with the optimism bias—even if they describe themselves as pessimists or realists. In a nutshell, the optimism bias is the tendency to think that the future will be better than the past or present, and to underestimate negative experiences, and overestimate positive ones. This is neither a good nor bad thing, but rather it’s both: we evolved to be optimistic because our primordial ancestors needed to think that there was something better out there, beyond the cave, in order to survive, migrate, and evolve. Optimism is a powerful motivator and has proven health benefits, but it also has downsides. Here, Sharot explains that delicate balance, and how understanding the nature of our cognitive biases can help us better protect ourselves against failure. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored.

[Video and text source: Big Think YouTube channel]

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