Unrealistic Optimism Effect

This phenomenon, and its related aspects, studied by the American psychologists Frederick Hansen Lund (1894-1965), Albert Hadley Cantril (1906-1969), and Neil David Weinstein (1945- ), among others, refers to a judgmental bias in humans that tends to influence their subjective estimates of the likelihood of certain future events in their own lives as compared to others, especially their peers. For example, the unrealistic optimism effect demonstrates that people overestimate the likelihood in their lives of positive/desirable events (e.g., the possibility of their living to be older than 80 years of age), and underestimate the likelihood in their lives of negative/undesirable events (e.g., the possibility of having a heart attack before they are 50 years old). Studies on this issue indicate that cognitive, motivational, and social factors such as degree of desirability, perceived probability, personal experience, ego-centrism, perceived controllability, and stereotype salience all tend to affect the amount of optimistic bias evoked by different possible events in people's lives. See also DECISION-MAKING THEORIES; OVERCONFIDENCE EFFECT. REFERENCES

Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 20, 63-81, 174-195. Cantril, A. H. (1938). The predicton of social events. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 33, 364-389. Weinstein, N. D. (1980). Unrealistic optimism about future life events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 806-820.

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