Optimism Bias: Why We Assume Brighter Tomorrows

the grass is greener

We like to think that the grass is greener on the other side.

Most people are generally optimistic about their futures. People expect brighter tomorrows. This tendency is here mentioned as the optimism bias. This bias makes people think in a positive and optimistic way about their own futures, and people may misinterpret their own skills and success because they are a naïve about their futures.

“… People expect that bad experiences are highly unlikely, which helps them stay hopeful in the face of unpleasant prospects. Moreover, even when faced with highly probable negative events, people still might be comforted by their perception that most future events will nonetheless be positive.” (O’Brien, 2013, p. 849).

Being naïve about the future may provide a sense of hope and success. Assuming a brighter tomorrow may help people get out of bed in the morning, and inspire them toward future goals.

Therefore, people generally hold positive orientations and expect positive outcomes in their futures, unless they have a (good) reason to believe otherwise.

The study by O’Brien (2013) shows that even when participants have experienced sad pasts, they are still optimistic about their futures.

The author suggests that we are (emotionally) motivated to think that the future will be positive, and this motivation overrules other metacognitive thoughts about the future. Therefore, optimistic expectations have been found very difficult to change.

The study also indicates that happiness is maximized when people only generate a few forecasts rather than many. Thus, struggling to think positively about one’s future may lead to less positive future interpretations. This finding is relevant since it suggests that more happiness in quantity does not predict more happiness in quality.