People display unrealistic optimism in their predictions for countless events believing that their personal long term outcomes will be more desired than can possibly be true. What is unrealistic optimism? When do people display unrealistic optimism? Why do people display unrealistic optimism? What are the consequences of unrealistic optimism? This primer is designed to provide a snapshot of the field 35 years after publication of the paper that coined the term unrealistic optimism (Weinstein 1980 What is Unrealistic Optimism? People are regarded as unrealistically optimistic if they predict that a personal long term outcome will be more beneficial than that suggested by a relevant objective standard. Unrealistic optimism also happens when people unduly forecast that their personal results will be more beneficial than the results FM19G11 of peers (Shepperd et al. 2013 The concept is definitely unique both FM19G11 empirically (Davidson & Prkachin 1997 and conceptually from optimism can also be problematic for behavior. For example participants in one study who displayed unrealistic comparative optimism wagered more money on the outcome of a trivia test (Moore & Small 2007 Another study found that among college freshmen higher unrealistic optimism about avoiding bad alcohol problems corresponded with higher alcohol consumption one year later on (Dillard Midboe & Klein 2009 And a third study found that unrealistic optimism about avoiding the H1N1 computer virus corresponded with lower intentions to perform hand hygiene methods (Kim & Niederdeppe 2013 Unrealistic optimism is not always problematic. Positive outcome anticipations sometimes foster goal persistence positive affect and hope (Armor & Taylor 1998 although these FM19G11 benefits may be unproductive if the outcome is largely uncontrollable. Because unrealistic optimism signifies a positive end result expectation it may possess related effects. A recent study for example found that cardiac individuals who reported higher unrealistic comparative optimism (i.e. they reported that they were at less risk than the typical person who experience the same cardiac event to have another cardiac event) about their future cardiac risk were less likely to encounter a cardiac event over the next 12 months (Hevey McGee & Horgan 2014 In addition a study of HIV-infected males revealed that higher unrealistic optimism about one’s FM19G11 chances of developing AIDs corresponded with more healthful behavior (Taylor et al. 1992 Critically we have a limited understanding of when unrealistic optimism is beneficial versus problematic but suspect that it may be beneficial for folks who are already actively coping with a problem and for events that are temporally distal rather than proximal Rabbit Polyclonal to EMR2. (Klein & Zajac 2009 Whether the effects are positive or bad may also FM19G11 depend on the time regarded as. The consequences of unrealistic optimism are likely innocuous and even positive in the short-run (reduced panic persistence toward goals) but bad in the long run (increased probability of bad results due to improved risk behavior failure to take precautions or insufficient preparation). Maybe nowhere are the long-term bad effects more apparent than in study on planning fallacy (Newby-Clark et al. 2000 It is important to keep in mind that most studies about unrealistic comparative optimism are correlational and cross-sectional which makes it impossible to determine whether the behaviors linked to unrealistic optimism are a result of the optimism. Low perceived risk may not increase FM19G11 risky behavior; rather people may feel that their risk is definitely low because they take precautions. It is also possible that some third variable (e.g. dispositional optimism ignorance of an important risk element overestimation of personal control) is definitely causing both unrealistic optimism and the risky behavior. Conclusion In the last three and half decades we have gained a clearer understanding of when and why unrealistic optimism happens and how it manifests itself. We now know that unrealistic comparative optimism may arise from an error in personal end result estimates an error in the outcome estimates made on behalf of others or both. Although unrealistic optimism is definitely pervasive it happens less for uncontrollable and common events when people have foundation rate information and when people believe their predictions might be challenged.