The Book

Tali Sharot's book The Optimism Bias has been an international hit and was recently listed as a bestseller in The Guardian bookshop following publication in the UK.  Read below for more information on the book itself, or click another topic from the menu on the left. 

The ideas and findings will change your own preconceived ideas of yourself, 
your behaviour and your expectations, as it has to mine" (amazon reviewer).

We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures. We watch our backs, weigh the odds, pack an umbrella. But science suggests that most of us are more optimistic than realistic: people overestimate their odds of professional success, expect their children to be extraordinarily gifted, believe they will live longer than they do, and hugely underestimate their chance of divorce, cancer and unemployment.
The belief that the future will likely be much better than the past and present is known as the optimism bias. Although we are unaware of it – almost 80% of us hold optimistic beliefs.
In this fascinating exploration, neuroscientist Tali Sharot  takes an in-depth, clarifying look at one of the greatest deceptions of the human mind: The Optimism Bias. Dr. Sharot’s original research demonstrates in surprising ways the biological basis for optimism, suggesting that the human brain is wired for hope and that optimism is essential for survival.
The book offers answers to these intriguing questions:

  • How does the brain generate hope?
  • What happens when it fails?
  • Why are we dreadful at predicting what will make us happy?
  • How is depression related to optimism?
  • Are all animals optimistic?
  • Do we become less optimistic with age?
  • Why are optimistic illusions critical for our survival, health and success?
  • And at the same time - How does unrealistic optimism threaten our modern world?
The Optimism Bias provides solutions by offering the reader a window into the exciting field of brain-imaging.

  • Chapter 1. Which way is up? Illusions of the human brain
  • Chapter 2. Are animals stuck in time? The evolution of prospection
  • Chapter 3. Is Optimism a self-fulfilling prophecy? How the mind transforms predictions into reality
  • Chapter 4. What do Barack Obama and Shirley Temple have in common? When Private Optimism meets Public Despair
  • Chapter 5. Can you predict what will make you happy? The unexpected ingredient for well-being
  • Chapter 6. Crocuses popping up through the snow? When things go wrong – depression, interpretation and genes
  • Chapter 7. Why is Friday better than Sunday? The Value of Anticipation and the Cost of Dread
  • Chapter 8. Why do things seem better after we choose them?  The mind’s journey from expectation to choice and back
  • Chapter 9. Are memories of 9/11 as accurate as they seem? How emotion changes our past.
  • Chapter 10. Why is being a cancer survivor better than winning the Tour de France? How the brain turns lead into gold
  • Chapter 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? What it all means - from prediction to perception to action