When it comes down to it, most humans are pretty optimistic. Yeah, we know the Titanic sank, but our boat is better. We know that driving a car is really pretty dangerous, but we’re more careful, it won’t happen to us. This is not just a cultural thing, we generally tend to place more importance on positive information about something than on negative. We’re more optimistic than we should be on everything, from the future of our current relationship to the stock market.
But what is it that makes us so optimistic? And what happens when it goes wrong? Because not everyone is optimistic. People with major depressive disorder, for example, are more pessimistic (sometimes they are just pessimistic enough to be realistic, but they can also be unrealistically pessimistic). What is it that determines how optimistic we are?
It’s time to take another look at dopamine.
Sharot et al. “How Dopamine Enhances an Optimism Bias in Humans” Current Biology, 2012.