Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Optimism Bias-Tali Sharot

The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain-Tali Sharot


the facts
satisfaction: side
pages: 211
gender: F
nationality: Israeli
year: 2012
Non fiction

A neuroscience based investigation of optimism and how it affects our lives.

I think I've been reading too much on neuroscience lately. Not only did I feel like I had already read this before but I read this in record time for non fiction. The last bit might be because while there are a lot of concepts covered in this book, the language was clear and accessible. It's almost a whirlwind journey through the major topics in popular neuroscience today. For that, it's great and could almost be like a reference book in that it quickly reminds you of what the concept is, a few major case studies, and then a reference to the positive mind.

I guess what made me give it a side instead of an up is that at times, Sharot seemed to be off-thesis. She covered all the major topics in neuroscience but failed at times to tell you what the positive benefit was. I remember most notably the chapter on flashbulb memory-that even though our memories of big events may seem vivid, that doesn't mean they are accurate (so flashbulb memories of 9/11 aren't as accurate as we're convinced). Maybe it was that my idea of optimism is different than Sharot but it isn't until the last paragraph of the chapter that she mentions the applicability of those studies to optimism. And I failed to be convinced.

Her main thesis was that optimism is good because by convincing ourselves we will be great and successful, we're more likely to be great and successful. But then she mentions things like some of the lowest earners in a company are the most optimistic that success will come to them and it's the realists who actually work towards their goal. How's that not a counter argument against optimism? Sure optimism should be like a "fine wine" but it's also a 'trick' to convince the mind that it's not so bad after a serious injury. That kind of language to describe what I'd identify as adaptive-strategies seems to make the world a bit of a horrible place that our minds have to trick ourselves into living in.

It was good as a review of major ideas but as a book convincing me of the value of optimism it fell short.

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