The Optimism Bias Book Summary - The Optimism Bias Book explained in key points
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The Optimism Bias summary

Tali Sharot

A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain

4.2 (81 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot delves into how our brains are hardwired to be optimistic, even in the face of adversity. It explores the benefits and drawbacks of this bias, and how to utilize it to achieve success.

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    The Optimism Bias
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    The human mind is not rational, but prone to bias.

    People like to view themselves as rational beings. In fact, this belief is so central to our self-perception that we even included it in the name of our species: Homo sapiens, the “wise man.” However, as you’ll soon discover, we may have been a bit too optimistic.

    Why? The way we perceive reality is simply not rational; often, it’s full of bias. To get an idea of just how biased we are, consider the following questions and then rate yourself relative to the rest of the population: Do you play well with others? Are you a good driver? How honest are you?

    So, did you rate yourself in the bottom 25 percent, the top 25 percent or somewhere in between?

    If you’re like most people you will have rated yourself above average. Maybe even in the top 25 percentile!

    Of course, it’s statistically impossible for this to actually be the case. How can most people be better than the rest? This phenomenon, one of many that shapes our perception of the world, is called superiority bias.

    It’s hard to avoid such delusional thoughts about the world around us. We tend to trust our perceptions, and thus don’t realize that the way we see the world is usually misguided.

    To demonstrate this point, consider a study conducted by cognitive scientist Petter Johansson. In the experiment, participants were given pairs of photos depicting different women, and were tasked with deciding which of the two they found more attractive.

    They were asked later to explain their choices. But this time they were given pictures of the women they had actually rated lower. Seventy-five percent of the time, the participants didn’t even notice the switch, and thus justified a choice they hadn’t actually made.

    Even stranger, when asked afterward if they thought they would hypothetically notice such a switch, 84 percent of those that had just been fooled confidently exclaimed that they would easily detect such trickery.

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    What is The Optimism Bias about?

    The Optimism Bias (2011) demonstrates the interesting and entertaining ways in which our rose-tinted glasses color our experience of the world – and why it’s a good thing that they do. Though they won’t enable you to take off those rosy specs, these blinks will at least afford you some insight into why you wear them, and how you can use them to your benefit.

    The Optimism Bias Review

    The Optimism Bias (2011) by Tali Sharot explores the powerful influence that optimism has on our lives and decision-making. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers fascinating insights into how our brains tend to be biased towards optimism, and how this bias impacts our perceptions and actions.
    • Provides practical strategies for harnessing the power of optimism to overcome challenges and achieve personal growth.
    • Backed by scientific research and enriched with real-life examples, the book presents a thought-provoking exploration of the psychology behind optimism.

    Best quote from The Optimism Bias

    We cant all do better than the average Joe. Maybe not, but deep down we believe we can.

    —Tali Sharot
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    Who should read The Optimism Bias?

    • Proponents of psychology
    • Those curious to know why their personal plans never seem to work out
    • People who believe that humans behave rationally

    About the Author

    Tali Sharot is an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College in London, and is a winner of the British Psychological Society’s Book Award. She is also the author of The Science of Optimism.

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    The Optimism Bias FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Optimism Bias?

    The main message of The Optimism Bias is how our brains are wired for optimism to navigate life's challenges.

    How long does it take to read The Optimism Bias?

    The reading time for The Optimism Bias varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Optimism Bias a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Optimism Bias is worth reading as it explains the optimistic nature of our minds and how it affects our decisions.

    Who is the author of The Optimism Bias?

    The author of The Optimism Bias is Tali Sharot.

    What to read after The Optimism Bias?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Optimism Bias, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Positivity by Barbara L. Fredrickson
    • Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson
    • Happiness by Matthieu Ricard
    • Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson
    • The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot
    • Never Enough by Judith Grisel
    • Practical Optimism by Sue Varma
    • The Worry-Free Mind by Carol Kershaw and Bill Wade
    • Stop Overthinking by Nick Trenton
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin