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The Optimist’s Road to Ruin by Peter West

Following on from my previous article celebrating negative thinking and why it may have survival value, I note another Natural.News.com article (September 1, 2016) “‘Optimism Bias’ Explains Why People Remain in Denial about Coming Collapse.”

This article refers to T. Sharot (et al.), “Neural Mechanisms Mediating Optimism Bias,” Nature vol. 150, November 2007. The article looks at the neural mechanisms behind “pervasive optimism bias,” such as people consistently expecting positive events in the future when there is no evidence for them.

If you like technicalities: “this tendency was related specifically to enhanced activation in the amygdala and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex when imagining positive future events relative to negative ones.”
What? No, I didn’t get it either and just hummed along. But, whatever the neurology involved, the brain seems wired to project optimism which must have some survival value, maybe allowing people to press on against perhaps hopeless odds.

Although I am by nature a pessimist, I concede that this is evidence against my world view that I am not sure how to answer. I think that this optimism may be a bad thing for us in the longish-term, as the Natural News article also concurs, making us blind to future dangers. Maybe, as in everything, it is a question of balancing the dark and the light.

 

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Sunday, 31 May 2020
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