Professor Ulrike Hahn, University of London
Abstract: Decades of research have come to the conclusions that people are unrealistically optimistic about their futures. Of both theoretical and applied relevance, unrealistic optimism has been dubbed “the most significant of the cognitive biases” (Kahneman, 2011). However, closer scrutiny of the key method for assessing optimistic bias by Harris and Hahn (2011) revealed this method to be fundamentally flawed and the data generated by it to be uninterpretable. Since then, a new methodology, focusing on optimistic belief revision has sought to both provide evidence for unrealistic optimism and elucidate its neural bases. However, this method, too, fails the most basic tests for measures of bias, generating artifactual `optimism’ in entirely rational agents.