"The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain"
Tali Sharot is a neuroscientist grad from New York University
who for years has studied the effect on neural biology and
emotional landscapes and how other factors influence
and determine people's sense of optimism and hopefulness
(or lack thereof.)
This book deals with the scientific through studies, surveys,
animal research, and other methods including analogy and case
studies, but never becomes tedious. The way she develops
her theories and layers her insights is interesting, and the facts
and findings are of use to anyone who has dealt with
negativity, hopelessness, depression, or passiveness.
Some of the findings might seem banal (as well as obvious) on the
surface, but then the way the information is applied and connected to other
findings is what stands out. For example, one section tells how those with
privilege have hope and optimism, more so than those without, and how
those without comforts have a realistic view of the world. But despite
the insightfulness of a realistic view, is it preferable?
This is more than sociology and psychology; this is delving into the
workings of the brain, and how it is designed to safeguard us from being
whelmed by our human ability to anticipate and expect and plan.
What happens when the understood threat of death, disease, frailty, loss, and
more become too loud in our heads, no longer distracted by the brain's
fail safe of hope and optimism?
Sharot delineates one of the most masterful explanations of how
depression develops and how it can be combated that I have
read in the last 25 years.
One area of particular note; Expectations. A person's
expectations weigh heavily on outcomes--their own and other
people's. Expectation of a positive result breeds more positive
mood, despite the actual eventual result. Thus who are falsely positive
benefit from reduced anxieties, depressive moods, worry, and other
problems that assault someone who tends to picture the worst
case scenarios--no matter that it may be more likely!
If you've ever wondered why your mindset of worry can't
seem to be changed, or just how and why 'Ignorance is bliss,'
check out this fascinating read.