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Always look on the bright side – The optimism bias

Tali Sharot

Although the phrase, ‘always look on the bright side’ conjures up images of Monty Python, Tali Sharot  suggests our brains are wired to do just that. In this TED Talk, Tali shares new research about how people are generally biased toward being optimistic. She explores how it’s statistically not possible for all of us to be in the top 20%, even if we think we are, and dispels the myth that Happiness = Low expectations.

Tali suggests the three key aspects of optimism are:

  • High expectations – they help us feel better whether we succeed or not
  • Anticipation – we enjoy the excitement of possibility (that’s why people prefer Friday to Sunday)
  • Our objective reality changes – the ‘rose-coloured’ glasses effect

Is optimism all that’s its cracked up to be? Tali explores the pros and cons of the bias and concludes with a wonderful story about penguins, delivering the final line, ‘you will soar like an eagle even if you’re a penguin!’ This is an intriguing 17 minute talk that makes you think, especially if you always look on the bright side!

Tali Sharot: The optimism bias