YANSS 135 – Why we are more realistic when evaluating others

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 The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

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Links and Sources

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Previous Episodes

The Optimism Bias

Sharot’s TED Talk

Sharot’s Website

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