The Optimism Bias

The tendency to view ourselves as invulnerable (or less likely than others) to experiencing negative life events.

This personal fable also involves the tendency to overestimate one’s probability of experiencing positive life events. Humans expect positive events in the future even when there is no evidence to support such expectations. It seems that optimism bias is part of a general bias towards thinking positive things or "The Pollyanna Principle."

• People expect to live longer and be healthier than average.
• People underestimate their likelihood of getting a divorce.
• People overestimate their prospects for success on the job market.
• People expect to complete personal projects in less time than it actually takes to complete them.
• Second-year MBA students were found to overestimate the number of job offers they would receive, the magnitude of their starting salary, and how early they would receive their first offer."
• Professional financial analysts were reasonably able to anticipate periods of growth and decline in corporate earnings, but consistently overestimated earnings realized.
• Vacationers anticipate greater enjoyment during upcoming trips than they actually expressed during their trips
• Newlyweds almost uniformly expect that their marriages will endure a lifetime" despite the large proportion of marriages that end in divorce.
• Most people expect they have a better-then-average chance of living long, healthy lives; being successfully employed and happily married; and avoiding a variety of unwanted experiences such as being robbed and assaulted, injured in an automobile accident, or experiencing health problems.
• Between 85% and 90% of respondents claim that their future will be better —more pleasant and less painful—than the future of an average peer"
• Most smokers believe they are less at risk of developing smoking-related diseases than others who smoke.
• People believe that they are less likely [than average] to be victims of auto accidents and earthquakes.
• People believe that they are less likely than others to fall prey to illness, depression and unwanted pregnancies.