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Unrealistic comparative optimism: An unsuccessful search for evidence of a genuinely motivational bias

Harris, AJL; de Moliere, L; Soh, M; Hahn, U; (2017) Unrealistic comparative optimism: An unsuccessful search for evidence of a genuinely motivational bias. PLoS ONE , 12 (3) , Article e0173136. 10.1371/journal.pone.0173136. Green open access

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Abstract

One of the most accepted findings across psychology is that people are unrealistically optimistic in their judgments of comparative risk concerning future life events—they judge negative events as less likely to happen to themselves than to the average person. Harris and Hahn (2011), however, demonstrated how unbiased (non-optimistic) responses can result in data patterns commonly interpreted as indicative of optimism due to statistical artifacts. In the current paper, we report the results of 5 studies that control for these statistical confounds and observe no evidence for residual unrealistic optimism, even observing a ‘severity effect’ whereby severe outcomes were overestimated relative to neutral ones (Studies 3 & 4). We conclude that there is no evidence supporting an optimism interpretation of previous results using the prevalent comparison method.

Type: Article
Title: Unrealistic comparative optimism: An unsuccessful search for evidence of a genuinely motivational bias
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173136
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173136
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 Harris et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1551122
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