YANSS 105 – Optimism Bias

When you think about your future health, career, finances, and even longevity — you imagine a rosy, hopeful future. For everyone else, though, you tend to be far more realistic.

In other words, if you are a smoker, everyone else is going to get cancer. You’ll probably be in the that lucky portion who smokes into your 90s, or so you think. Similarly, the odds of success for a new restaurant change depending on who starts that venture. If its you, the odds are pretty good. If it is someone else, you see the odds as pretty bad.


For about 80 percent of people, the brain overestimates the likelihood of future good events and underestimates the odds of future bad events. This, guest Tali Sharot says, is our built-in optimism bias.

Sharot is the director of the Affective Brain Lab and teaches cognitive neuroscience in the department of Experimental Psychology at University College London. In this episode, she explains why we are prone to optimism and hope over realism and the skepticism of experience. She also details how we can use our knowledge of this mental quirk to our advantage both personally and institutionally.

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This episode is sponsored by Dignity Health. Just two minutes of mindful thinking can reduce stress and help us be more mindful of the moments and people around us. Share #take2mins on social media to tell the world how you are incorporating mindfullness into your daily life.

This episode is sponsored by Blue Apron who sets the highest quality standards for their community of artisanal suppliers, family-run farms, fisheries and ranchers. For less than $10 per meal, Blue Apron delivers the best ingredients along with easy-to-read, full-color recipes with photos and additional information about where your food came from. Check out this week’s menu and get your first three meals free with free shipping by going to www.blueapron.com/YANSS

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Links and Sources

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Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

The Optimism Bias

Sharot’s TED Talk

Sharot’s Website