Pessimism bias

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Pessimism bias is an effect in which people exaggerate the likelihood that negative things will happen to them. It contrasts with optimism bias. The difference is that we are in an improbable way worried about our society's future.[1] Conversely, optimism bias is a tendency to underestimate personal risks and overestimate the likelihood of positive life events.[2][3]

People with depression are particularly likely to exhibit a pessimism bias.[4][5] This is likely explained by the fact depressed people think negatively in general. Surveys of smokers have found that their ratings of their risk of heart disease showed a small but significant pessimism bias; however, the literature as a whole is inconclusive.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edelman, Ric (21 December 2010). The Truth About Money 4th Edition. HarperCollins. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-06-207572-7. 
  2. ^ a b SR Sutton, How accurate are smokers' perceptions of risk? (PDF), Health, Risk & Society, 1999 
  3. ^ de Palma, Andre; Picard, Nathalie (2009). "Behaviour Under Uncertainty". In Kitamura, Ryūichi; Yoshii, Toshio; Yamamoto, Toshiyuki. The Expanding Sphere of Travel Behaviour Research: Selected Papers from the 11th International Conference on Travel Behaviour Research. Emerald Group Publishing. pp. 423ff. ISBN 978-1-84855-936-3. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Sharot, Tali; Riccardi, Alison M.; Raio, Candace M.; Phelps, Elizabeth A. (2007). "Neural mechanisms mediating optimism bias". Nature 450 (7166): 102–105. doi:10.1038/nature06280. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 17960136. 
  5. ^ Wang, PS; AL Beck, P Berglund (2004), "Effects of major depression on moment-in-time work performance", American Journal of Psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association) 161: 1885–1891, doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.10.1885