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Optimistic Bias

  • By: Hichang Cho
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Optimistic bias refers to the tendency for people to judge that they are less likely than others to experience undesirable life events. Individuals tend to interpret risk in a self-serving way by underestimating their own vulnerability to risk while judging others as being more susceptible. Being optimistic about future events is functional as it increases feelings of control and reduces anxiety, but it can also be maladaptive and harmful in health risk contexts as it may demotivate people to pay attention to health communication or engage in precautionary behavior due to the illusion of self-invulnerability. Since optimistic bias was first demonstrated by Neil Weinstein in 1980, numerous studies have confirmed that it is a pervasive, prevalent, and robust phenomenon driven by fundamental motives and underlying ...

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