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The human brain 'rejects' negative thoughts

About 80 per cent of us are hard-wired to see events through rose-coloured glasses, according to new research.

Image: dierk schaefer via Creative Commons

THERE REALLY IS such a thing as optimism – and it’s more prevalent than you might think.

Most people avoid incorporating negative information and instead indulge in “unrealistic optimism”, according to the findings of a newly published study.

Scientists at University College London concluded that the brain is hard-wired to reject negative thoughts and engage in optimism – with highly optimistic individuals demonstrating that they learned only from experiences that reinforced their positive views.

This sense of optimism influences a range of aspects in a person’s life, researchers said, from personal relationships to politics to finance.

Scientist involved in the study concluded that 80 per cent of people were optimists, even if they would not describe themselves as such.

During the study, 14 participants underwent a brain scan while they were asked about the likelihood of 80 “bad events” occurring – such as the probability of developing cancer or becoming divorced.

Subjects had first been informed about the actual likelihood of any of the events happening, before being asked what they believed the likelihood to be.

Patients consistently downgraded the probability of personal risk – so much so, in fact, researchers concluded that “unrealistic optimism is a pervasive human trait”.

Lead researcher Dr Tali Sharot said: “Smoking kills messages don’t work as people think their chances of cancer are low. The divorce rate is 50 per cent, but people don’t think it’s the same for them. There is a very fundamental bias in the brain,” reports the BBC.

The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience

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