October 10, 2011

The optimist's brain.

"When the news was positive, all people had more activity in the brain's frontal lobes, which are associated with processing errors. With negative information, the most optimistic people had the least activity in the frontal lobes, while the least optimistic had the most."


edutcher said...


The problem is that optimists aren't always right. What you don't think will harm you often does.

Kind of gets you both ways, doesn't it?

traditionalguy said...

Don't worry, be happy.

There are different types, but the hard wired image of the brain as a computer is not going to be the answer.

Some folks are encouragers who can see the good, and some folks are predictors of doom who can see the bad.

They are both right some times.

Fred4Pres said...

Being optimistic doesn't necessarily mean being a risk taker or naive about one's chances. Hope in the face of adversity (and not giving up) is often was separates a survivor from a victim.

deborah said...

Live feed of OWS...something's going down.


timmaguire42 said...

What do they mean, "associated with processing errors"? That this area looks for errors? or that this area makes errors? Either reading works grammatically.

They need better writers.

Robert Cook said...

It's been said before many times (by supposed experts who have done studies, they say), that depressed people tend to have a more realistic perception of the world around them.

The question is: are they depressed because of their more acute perception of reality, or are they able to see ugly reality without the filter of "optimism" because they are depressed?

Psychedelic George said...

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

--Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale, a Medal of Honor recipient and Vice Presidential candidate. Stockdale was the highest ranking Naval officer held in North Vietnamese POW camps. He survived seven years of torture and solitary confinement.

His take on optimism?

When asked if he could tell which of his comrades would not survive, he replied:

"Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

(Interestingly, Stockdale led the fighter squadron that twice came to the defense of the destroyer USS Maddox in the Tonkin Gulf. On August 2, 1964, his fighters sank or crippled three North Vietnamese PT boats fleeing from their attack on the ship. Two days later, at night and in bad weather, the Maddox again said it was under assault. When Stockdale’s aircraft arrived, they found the ship firing wildly into the night, and they joined in.

Upon returning to his carrier, Stockdale was incensed to learn that the ship’s skipper concluded his green radar operators had been confused by the storm, and that there had been no attack.

Even worse, when Stockdale awoke the next morning, to his shock and horror he found that Johnson and McNamara had used the events of the night before to order the first ever air assault into Vietnam, a mission that Stockdale also commanded.)

For a deeper take on optimism, consider “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychotherapist who survived Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.

“It did not really matter what we expected from life but rather what life expected from us,” Frankl writes. “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete….It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful....

"The salvation of man is through love and in love….When [a man’s] only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position, man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of infinite glory.”

Have a nice day. Enjoy your suffering. It is uniquely yours.

There will be a test, and this is it.

TMink said...

The frontal lobes are large and used a ton in every day life and cognition. To limit the frontal lobes to "processing errors" is not science. The confirmatory bias was researched by Hopper three decades ago. Sadly, brain science and psychology do a really poor job of communicating with the public.

And no way 80% of the public is optimistic.


Fred4Pres said...

Stockdale is probably right (I am loathe to contradict him) but I look at optimism as a will to prevail. Not giving up. Some pessimists I know don't even try (same for depressed people).

You need to be grounded in reality.

Peter said...

Reminds me of that quote,

"In the choice between changing one's mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof"

-- attributed to John Kenneth Galbraith

ndspinelli said...

"Look on the Bright Side of Life"

Monty Python

"Those who say they can, and those who say they can't, are both correct."

John Wooden

Shanna said...

depressed people tend to have a more realistic perception of the world around them

And yet, stressing about the world can be a self fullfilling prophecy, in that stress can lead to disease. If you are optimistic, yes bad things can still happen but at least you didn't spend all of your time worrying about that possibility. So I think optimistists are better off and also less depressing to be around!

And you can always hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Shanna said...

Wow, so many typos in that last one! I guess it's too early to be posting today...

bagoh20 said...

"depressed people tend to have a more realistic perception of the world around them."

Only to a fellow pessimist. Think about it, about people you know. Do depressed people have a realistic view?

I'm a strong optimist and have many pessimist friends who constantly call on me for help with their "problems". Their problems are always the same. They simply expect the worst and do little to drive things to a good outcome.

My "help" mostly consists of showing them how things will work out with a little positive attitude and action. It nearly always works out much better than they expected. Maybe 100%.

The main problem with depressed people is their unidirectional wrong view of their world. Inaccuracy is the totality of their disease.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My frontal lobes have been going into overdrive since Obama began running for office.

Being optimistic doesn't necessarily mean being a risk taker or naive about one's chances.

I think it is a flight or fight type of instinctual reflex. When the feces is about to hit the oscillating mechanism.....you need to be processing how to avoid the resulting fallout.

I hope I'm not going to be hit by a shitstorm, but I'm not optimistic about my chances if I just sit here.

Hope in the face of adversity (and not giving up) is often was separates a survivor from a victim.

Hope in the face of adversity without thinking about all aspects of the adversity,("tra la la...don't worry be happy")........creates victims. Not analyzing what the problem is, what the potential problems can be, being too optimistic..."hey it will all work out" is exactly how we get in trouble and exactly why we are in the troubles that we have now.

VW: picksort!! Exactly, you must pick and sort through the facts and possibilities if you want to survive.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Or to put it shorter

Hope for the best and expect the worst.

vw: hooters. OK... now google is just being rude

mariner said...

How did they find enough optimists to do a study?

mariner said...


What's wrong with owls? ;)