By Tali Sharot
Pantheon, $25.95, 245 pages
As humans, are we wired to look at the bright side of life? Tali Sharot claims as much in this robust and fascinating book. Through scrupulous documentation and helpful, guiding analyses of recent studies in psychology, cognition and neuroscience, she gives a strong reason to believe “that our brains have evolved to over-predict future happiness and success, because, funnily enough, doing so makes health and progress more likely.”
Her writing is clear and crisp, in a style of patient description and slow methodical progression through a vast category of evidence. That kind of amalgamation might make for a more superficial, speed-through survey; however, Sharot keeps an energetic flow, pausing long enough for the reader to grasp the connections, without dwelling in minutiae. There are no revelations or new research brought forward to provoke. Rather, The Optimism Bias draws the big picture of how susceptible our minds are to good news. Of course, now that you read this, you might have no choice but to like the book.
Reviewed by Neil Liss