Are We Born Optimistic? Or Is It a Coping Skill We Learn as Adults?

80% of adults are overly optimistic about life—where does that cognitive bias come from?

There's one brain bias that affects 80% of adults and it has a familiar name you may not expect: optimism. Not always thought of as a cognitive mechanism, the optimism bias leads people to overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes and to underestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes. It can be hugely helpful in our social lives and in keeping us motivated even if the trade off is, at times, the denial of reality. So where does this cognitive bias come from? Are we born with it, or do we develop it as we grow? Developmental psychologist Lori Markson compiles research about how optimism works in babies and young kids, and how that may help us to understand why we adults are the way we are. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.

Keep reading Show less

Hope Together: How One Partner's Belief in Good Outcomes Affects the Relationship

Pregnancy is proving to be a crucial time to study the effects of hope and optimism within a relationship.

"The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one," wrote Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, and Professor Eshkol Rafaeli and his team at the Affect and Relationships Lab at Bar-Ilan University have taken that to heart. Funded by the Hope & Optimism initiative, they have been investigating how hope functions in a couple—or a 'dyad', the most romantic term of all—especially as a dyad becomes a triad. Their research focuses on the emotional and mental health of couples having their first child, as it's a major life transition. So does hope fluctuate? Is it contagious? Must both be hopeful, or is one optimist enough to carry everyone through? Here, Rafaeli discusses his team's findings, and future work. This video was filmed as part of the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.