The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain

The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain

by Tali Sharot


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Psychologists have long been aware that most people maintain an irrationally positive outlook on life—but why? Turns out, we might be hardwired that way.

In this absorbing exploration, Tali Sharot—one of the most innovative neuroscientists at work today—demonstrates that optimism may be crucial to human existence. The Optimism Bias explores how the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails; how the brains of optimists and pessimists differ; why we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy; how emotions strengthen our ability to recollect; how anticipation and dread affect us; how our optimistic illusions affect our financial, professional, and emotional decisions; and more.
Drawing on cutting-edge science, The Optimism Bias provides us with startling new insight into the workings of the brain and the major role that optimism plays in determining how we live our lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307473516
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/12/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 490,009
Product dimensions: 5.34(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Tali Sharot’s research on optimism, memory, and emotion has been the subject of features in Newsweek, The Boston Globe, Time, The Wall Street Journal, New Scientist, and The Washington Post, as well as on the BBC. She has a Ph.D. in psychology and neuroscience from New York University and is the director of the Affective Brain Lab and an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the department of Experimental Psychology at University College London. She lives in London.

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Glass Forever Half Full?
1. Which Way Is Up? Illusions of the Human Brain
2. Are Animals Stuck in Time? The Evolution of Prospection
3. Is Optimism a Self- Fulfi lling Prophecy? How the Mind Transforms Predictions into Reality
4. What Do Barack Obama and Shirley Temple Have in Common? When Private Optimism Meets Public Despair
5. Can You Predict What Will Make You Happy? The Unexpected Ingredient for Well- being
6. Crocuses Popping Up Through the Snow? When Things Go Wrong: Depression, Interpretation,
and Genes
7. Why Is Friday Better Than Sunday? The Value of Anticipation and the Cost of Dread
8. Why Do Things Seem Better After We Choose Them? The Mind’s Journey from Expectation to Choice and Back
9. Are Memories of 9/11 as Accurate as They Seem? How Emotion Changes Our Past
10. Why Is Being a Cancer Survivor Better Than Winning the Tour de France? How the Brain Turns Lead into Gold
11. A Dark Side to Optimism? From World War II to the Credit Crunch—Underestimating Risk Is Like Drinking Red Wine
Epilogue: A Beautiful Mademoiselle or a Sad Old Lady? From Prediction to Perception to Action

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"What a treat.  A charming, engaging and accessible book written by a scientist who knows how to tell a story." - Richard Thaler, author of Nudge

"Very enjoyable, highly original and packed with eye-opening insight, this is a beautifully written book that really brings psychology alive." – Simon Baron-Cohen, author of The Science of Evil

"With rare talent Sharot takes us on an unforgettable tour of the hopes, traps and tricks of our brains…cutting-edge…a must-read.” –David Eagleman, author of Sum and Incognito

“If you read her story, you'll get a better grip on how we function in it. I'm optimistic about that.” –Richard Stengel, Time

“Lively, conversational…A well-told, heartening report from neuroscience’s front lines.” –Kirkus

“Insightful, Oliver Sacks–y first book.” –Village Voice (Summer Book Picks)

“Most readers will turn to the last page not only buoyed by hope but also aware of the sources and benefits of that hope.” –Booklist  

“Fascinating.” –Insane Science, NPR

A book I’d suggest to anyone.. offers evolutionary, neurological, and even slightly philosophical reasons for optimism” –Forbes 
“An intelligently written look into why most people take an optimistic view of life… fascinating trip into why we prefer to remain hopeful about our future and ourselves.” –New York Journal of Books
“Fascinating book offers compelling evidence for the neural basis of optimism and what it all means.” –Scientific American Book club

“Once I started reading The Optimism Bias, I could not put it down.”. –Positive Psychology News Daily
“A fascinating yet accessible exploration of how and why our brains construct a positive outlook on life.” –Brain Pickings (7 Essential Books on Optimism)

“Engaging…There are many absorbing stories and facts in this concise and well-written book…you will find yourself reflecting on its contents long after you’ve read the final page.” –

Customer Reviews