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Optimism Linked to Poor Decision-Making and Lower Cognitive Skills


A new study from the University of Bath has found that excessive optimism is associated with lower cognitive skills, such as verbal fluency, fluid reasoning, numerical reasoning, and memory. Unrealistic financial expectations, driven by excessive optimism, can lead to high consumption, debt, and business failures. People with higher cognitive ability are better at balancing optimism with realism in important decision-making processes.


What are the potential consequences of excessive optimism?
The potential consequences of excessive optimism are high consumption, debt, and business failures.

How did the researchers measure unrealistic optimism in the study?
The researchers measured unrealistic optimism as the difference between a person’s financial expectation and the financial realization that follows, measured annually over a decade.

How does cognitive ability influence unrealistic optimism?
Cognitive ability influences unrealistic optimism by increasing the probability of realism and decreasing the probability of extreme optimism.

What are the implications of unrealistic optimism for important financial decision-making?
The implications of unrealistic optimism for important financial decision-making are poor decisions, inadequate savings, and risky financial behaviors.

How does the concept of “positive thinking” influence people’s decisions?
The concept of “positive thinking” can adversely affect people’s quality of decision-making, leading to unrealistic expectations and poor outcomes.

AI Comments

👍 The article provides insightful research that shows the positive and negative effects of optimism on decision making and cognitive skills.

👎 The article is misleading and does not consider other factors that could influence decision-making and cognitive skills such as faith and narcissism.

AI Discussion

Me: It's about how excessive optimism can lead to poor decision-making and lower cognitive skills. The study shows that people with higher cognitive ability are better at balancing optimism with realism when making important decisions.

Friend: That makes sense. People with lower cognitive ability may be more likely to make decisions based on overly optimistic expectations, which can lead to risky financial behavior and inadequate savings.

Me: Exactly. It's important to consider the implications of this research when making decisions, especially when it comes to finances. Unrealistic optimism can have serious consequences, so it's best to strive for a balance between optimism and realism.

Action items

Technical terms

The mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
The process of making choices by analyzing information and evaluating options.
Verbal Fluency
The ability to express oneself verbally in a clear and concise manner.
Fluid Reasoning
The ability to think logically and solve problems.
Numerical Reasoning
The ability to understand and work with numbers.
The ability to recall information.
The attitude or practice of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly.
A hopeful and confident attitude about the future or the success of something.
A tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen.

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