Wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality, or reality. Studies have consistently shown that holding all else equal, subjects will predict positive outcomes to be more likely than negative outcomes (see valence effect).
Christopher Booker described wishful thinking in terms of
- “the fantasy cycle” ... a pattern that recurs in personal lives, in politics, in history – and in storytelling. When we embark on a course of action which is unconsciously driven by wishful thinking, all may seem to go well for a time, in what may be called the “dream stage”. But because this make-believe can never be reconciled with reality, it leads to a “frustration stage” as things start to go wrong, prompting a more determined effort to keep the fantasy in being. As reality presses in, it leads to a “nightmare stage” as everything goes wrong, culminating in an “explosion into reality”, when the fantasy finally falls apart.
Notable examples 
Prominent examples of wishful thinking include:
- Economist Irving Fisher said that "stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau" a few weeks before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which was followed by the Great Depression.
- The Kennedy administration maintained that, if overpowered by Cuban forces, the CIA-backed rebels could "escape destruction by melting into the countryside" in the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
As a fallacy 
In addition to being a cognitive bias and a poor way of making decisions, wishful thinking is commonly held to be a specific informal fallacy in an argument when it is assumed that because we wish something to be true or false, it is actually true or false. This fallacy has the form "I wish that P is true/false, therefore P is true/false." Wishful thinking, if this were true, would rely upon appeals to emotion, and would also be a red herring.
Reverse wishful thinking 
Reverse wishful thinking is where someone assumes that because something is bad it is likely to happen. This may be to fulfill a prediction made by the speaker or because they are generally pessimistic.
See also 
Further reading 
- Harvey, Nigel (1992). "Wishful thinking impairs belief-desire reasoning: A case of decoupling failure in adults?". Cognition 45 (2): 141–162. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(92)90027-F. PMID 1451413.
- Gordon, Ruthanna; Franklin, Nancy; Beck, Jennifer (2005). "Wishful thinking and source monitoring". Memory & Cognition 33 (3): 418–429. doi:10.3758/BF03193060.
- Sutherland, Stuart (1994) Irrationality: The Enemy Within Penguin. ISBN 0-14-016726-9 Chapter 9, "Drive and Emotion"
- Articles Thedict.net, About wishful thinking