Optimism Bias is the tendency to overestimate the chances of good events in our lives and underestimate the bad. According to psychologists, about 80% of us have the bias.
Some of the effects are straightforward. If you think you'll get that promotion, you're more likely to work hard and speak up. If you think she'll say yes, you're more likely to ask. Optimists tend to do well. But there's a far more important reason you should nurture your Optimism Bias.
You'd think that underestimating your chances of getting skin cancer is a bad idea. Or that overestimating the chances of being happily married will end in misery. In situations like this, optimism can cause serious damage. So maybe we should have low expectations instead. That way we'll be happier when we exceed them.
For years, psychologists have fought over this issue. Is the secret to happiness low expectations, or optimism? Should you set yourself an easily achievable goal for your retirement, or try and become a millionaire living in Malta?
According to researcher Tali Sharot from University College London, optimists tend to do better and be happier even when their optimism has led them astray. Now, this probably doesn't apply to everyone. And it probably doesn't apply to all aspects of your life. But it could be a very powerful secret to happiness and success in retirement.
According to Tali, 'people with high expectations always feel better.' It's all about interpretation. Tali uses an easy to understand example. People with high expectations are convinced they're a genius when they do well on a test. When they don't, it's all the teacher's fault. The next exam is sure to be aced.
People with low expectations don't attribute their exam success to themselves, and so they don't become happier with their success. Worst of all, failure is very self enforcing when you expect it. It becomes acceptable all too easily for upcoming exams. Scientists have a term...