February 27, 2013
Overly Optimistic More Likely To Die?

Speaking as a pessimist there has got to be some error in this study and us pessimists will really die sooner.

Frieder R. Lang, lead author of the study from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, said: “Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade.

My guess is that pessimists are more conscientious about their health and risks because they see more threats to their health around them. The optimists are thinking "what could possibly go wrong from weaving in and out of commuter traffic on a bicycle". Surely it isn't pessimists who are doing the dangerous bicycle maneuvers at intersections at rush hour. That stuff will get you killed.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 February 27 08:46 PM 

destructure said at February 28, 2013 9:06 AM:

I agree with your thinking. I wonder how pessimism relates to fear? I ask because some psychologists claim conservatives rate higher on fear than liberals. Probably so. As if that's a bad thing. Dangers do exist. So its good for people to have a healthy sense of fear. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Anthony said at February 28, 2013 1:17 PM:

It is most probable that rationalists live longer than optimists or pessimists; for they estimate probabilities, and do not rely on intuitive heuristics.

destructure said at March 1, 2013 5:11 AM:


Most people aren't that rational. They just think they are. But I disagree that rationalism is necessarily better than "intuition heuristics". Let's suppose you're walking along and see a snake out of the corner of your eye. A purely rational person would stop and analyze the situation. They would have a closer look to see if the snake is dead or a rubber toy snake or even a stick that only looks like a snake. They would realize most snakes aren't poisonous. While they're doing all this they could be bitten by a real snake that is poisonous. Yet the instinctive reaction of jumping back avoids the danger altogether and costs nothing. I didn't just make this up. This is why psychologists believe people tend to mistake sticks for snakes and bumps in the night for intruders. Don't misunderstand. I'm not against rationalism. But fear and pessimism evolved for a reason. In my opinion a healthy fear and pessimism combined with rationalism is best. Fortunately, they're not mutually exclusive.

Anthony said at March 7, 2013 5:01 PM:

It is true that most people are not that rational. The good news is that people can become more rational and "less wrong". One good first step is to notice when you are trusting intuitive heuristics when they are not appropriate. I tend to have an intuitive heuristic that is generally optimistic about the future. I should not rely on my "gut" or my optimistic reflex when considering a particular stock purchase. My optimistic intuition may lead me to make a bad buy. People have to notice when they are relying on reason and when they are relying on their "gut". As for your example of the snake - rational people generally avoid snakes too. For a better understanding of rationalism,and heuristics check out this site - http://lesswrong.com/

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