“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.”
― George Bernard Shaw
There are four factors that are responsible for such a bias:
The optimistic bias is seen in a number of situations and circumstances. This happens for both positive and negative events. As for positive events, the more popular example is that people think that they are going to be more financially prosperous than the other. For negative events, people think that they are less likely to have more drinking and smoking problems.
The second example is also known as the valence effect. The study suggests that bias is stronger for negative events as they are more likely to be involved in risky results and bad behaviours. Basically, optimism bias is a cognitive bias. But, I would still like to discuss this in more detail so that we can understand this better.
People are more optimistic than realistic. The fact that the future will be much better than the present and the past is a bias. Overly positive assumptions about the future may lead to disastrous consequences. Unrealistic dreams and desires compel us to ignore things happening around us. Our intense focus on ourselves as unique individuals give rise to the feeling of invulnerability.
The feeling of invulnerability is something that we call ‘’personal fable.’’ The term was first coined by the psychologist David Elkind in his work Egocentrism in Adolescent. This as he states is ‘a story that he or she tells himself or herself which is not true.’ The adolescent mentally constructs hypotheses that are quite contrary to reality. It plays a vital role in shaping the identity and perceptions of adolescents throughout all stages of life. That is where we grow and feel a sense of crisis of our identity. A recent study suggests that personal fable also persists in adulthood. The persistence of the personal fable could contribute to continued risk-taking behavior.
Here, I certainly do not mean to say that optimism has no present benefits. Even if the better future is an illusion, optimists have clear benefits. To make the future more progressive, it’s important for us to imagine an alternative reality. Optimists are not less likely to divorce, they are rather more likely to remarry-an act that is, Samuel Johnson wrote, the triumph of hope over experience.
What is more problematic and risk-averse is “unrealistic optimism,” “illusion of invulnerability,” “illusion of unique invulnerability,” “optimism bias,” and “personal fable.” These terms are synonymously used. It is very much possible to be optimistically biased by being overconfident about the objective chance of experiencing a positive event and avoiding the negative one. Once we are made aware of our optimistic illusions, we can act to protect ourselves.