The Optimism Bias
The Optimism Bias by Tali Shalot was an excellent read. It was easy to understand and contained a great deal of interesting information. Shalot covers topics of illusions that your mind creates all the way to how optimism may not always be the best outlook in some cases. This book shows that most people think similarly despite all of our diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Before i read this book I did not see myself as an optimist, but now I have a different perspective.
Chapter 1 was one of my favorite chapters in the book. It shows how the optimism bias is a cognitive illusion that is created to keep our minds at ease and bodies healthy. Can you imagine if there was always a looming feeling of doubt or uncertainty that you had to live under? It would be stressful and intolerable. The illusion of the optimism bias is very similar to visual illusions. We are blind to the illusion until hard data is presented to us to prove that it is an illusion. Illusions give way to how the brain functions and what constraints were involved in development.
Chapter 5 was about predicting happiness. I have always believed that happiness is a choice, not a reaction and still do after reading this chapter. Overall it is about where the individuals priorities are. One surprising fact was that having children does not make parents happier according to studies. Parents' happiness levels go down until their child is out of the house and grown up. People feel the need to reproduce offspring just like any other animal. What really matters to make people happy is their future. If they have a positive view towards their future they will feel at ease. Depression is a result of an inability to construct a future for themselves. When the amygdala and rACC have a weak connection it is likely the person will be depressed. If there is a strong connection the individual will have an optimistic bias towards their life.
Chapter 3 was called ‘Is optimism a self fulfilling prophecy?’ and discusses how expectations can yield to the desired goals. Verbalizing your goals helps you complete them. This forces an individual to stay committed and keep working to accomplish their goals. This chapter also discusses stereotypes and how the way a label will affect the way a person acts. Also it pays off to be optimistic in the long run. Studies have shown that pessimists typically die younger than optimists. Optimists are less anxious and adjust to stress better. This puts less strain on their mind and body.
In conclusion, The Optimism Bias is a good read. It was an easy book to read that contained valuable and interesting information. I did not expect Shalot to cover as many aspects of optimism as she did with such details. She does a good job of explaining concepts with examples and hard facts. Even a person who is not interested in studying psychology could enjoy this book.