It’s official: optimists are full of shit

Not that it should come as much of a surprise, but scientists have apparently confirmed that people with an optimistic outlook tend to selectively ignore evidence and under-estimate risk. More specifically, what the experiment showed was that people of an optimistic nature who originally over-estimated a risk would willingly downgrade their assessment in the face of contradictory evidence, whereas if they originally considered the unfortunate event to be less likely they would stick with their erroneous belief no matter what. In other words, they assume that bad things only happen to other people.

This fact has long been obvious to anyone who has been forced to sit in a school chapel service while several hundred supposedly-intelligent adults enthusiastically listen to fairy-tales about how they are not really going to die, or watched from afar as yet another doomed teenage romance held together by hormones and soppy twittering fizzles and evaporates like spit on a barbecue. Now the evidence seems to agree — not with the whooping, cheering extroverts who insist that everything is amazing and wonderful, but with the oft-criticised and frequently ostracised cynics who refuse to believe it.

So does this mean that all of the self-proclaimed “happy-go-lucky” / “laid-back” / “eternally optimistic” types will stop flaunting their idiocy like it’s some kind of badge? Will it become possible to visit a social networking site without being sand-blasted with nauseating bliss-ninny platitudes about only living once and enjoying every minute? Will the failure to present oneself as “happy” and “fun” cease to be viewed as a severe character flaw but instead recognised as a firmer grasp of facts and the real world?

It would be nice. But I’m not optimistic.

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