1.3 The Optimism Bias [Tali Sharot]
Hui: 作者Tali Sharot提出其实人类的大脑习惯于乐观的看待事物，这种乐观有利于人类生存，比如我们有着“优势错觉”。我们信心十足地认为自己比一般人更有趣，更有魅力，更友好，更成功。当人问起时，我们表面不会承认，但是内心却对自己的判断笃信不疑。作者指出大部分人都过度乐观（抑郁症患者除外），而那些我们认为悲观的人同样过度乐观，只是偏离程度低些。
1.3.1 Illusions of the Human Brain
During spatial disorientation, also known as vertigo, a pilot is unable to detect the position of the aircraft relative to the ground. [空间定向障碍，又称“晕眩”，飞行员无法正确判断飞机对地面的位置。]
During a rapid deceleration, a pilot sometimes feels the plane is facing downward. To rectify this illusion, the pilot may then pull up the nose of the plane, which often leads the aircraft to fall into a catastrophic spin known as the “graveyard spin.” [在急剧减速时，飞行员有时会觉得飞机正机头向下飞行。为了纠正这一错觉，飞行员可能会拉升机头，这常常会导致飞机灾难地旋转，也叫做“死亡螺旋”。]
The human brain’s navigational system has evolved to detect our movement on earth, not in the sky. It calculates our position by comparing signals from the inner ear (which has tubes of liquid that shift when we move) to the fixed sensation of gravity that points down to the center of the earth. [人类大脑进化后的导航系统适用于地面上的行动，而非空中。它通过比较内耳中的信号（内耳里的小管含有液体，会随着我们的行动而变化），可以判断我们相对指向地心的重力感受。]
Our brain interprets irregular signals, such as angular accelerations or centrifugal force, as the normal force of gravity.[一个人的大脑会把不合常规的信号（例如角加速度或离心力）]
Like our navigation system, our visual system was developed to interpret the world it would encounter most frequently. To do so, it developed some shortcuts, some assumptions about the world, which it uses to function. These allow our brain to work efficiently in almost all situations. However it does leave room for errors when those assumptions are not met.[和导航系统一样，视觉系统发展到企图识别熟悉的万事万物。为了做到这一点，视觉系统发展出了一条捷径，那就是先入为主的假设这个世界是什么样的，然后基于这一点展开工作。这让大脑在几乎所有的情况下都能有效运作。]
Thatcher illusion, as it was first demonstrated in 1980 on a photo of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
To get along in this world, we need to remember and distinguish thousands of faces. Luckily, most of us do so with ease, thanks to the part of the brain known as the Fusiform Face Area (FFA), which is located in a region of the brain called the fusiform gyrus. The FFA is the part of our visual system that allows us to recognize that a face is a face, and to distinguish between the many faces we encounter on a daily basis. Without a functioning FFA, we may all become prosopagnosic, which means we will be face-blind. People who suffer from lesions to their fusiform gyrus have difficulty identifying faces and may even be unable to recognize their own face.
Humans are very good at perceiving the emotional state of others. We do so unconsciously all the time. [人类很擅长察言观色，我们毫无意识地重复这一技能。]
We can do so for familiar faces, faces we have not previously encountered, faces from our own culture or a foreign one, because emotional expressions are universal. [所有人体现情绪的表情是一样的] The capability to convey and detect emotion is critical to our existence. [表现和体察情绪的能力对我们的生存至关重要。]
The brain is used to detect upright faces and expressions. It processes the parts of the face in unison, as this is the most efficient way to do so. In other words, rather than identifying each part separately, the brain processed the face and its expression as a whole. [大脑习惯观察端正的面孔和表情，并且能同时分辨脸庞的各个部分，因为这是最有效率的方式。大脑并不是逐一区分，而是把脸庞和表情当作整体进行处理。]
As in most illusion, learning of the illusion and its roots does not erase the illusion….Cognitive illusion, rather than sensory ones, are much harder to accept. As in any complex system, the brain has built-in defects. These defects are overpowering; we live with them every day without being aware of them. We rarely doubt that our perception is accurate reflection of the world, when, in fact, our brains can often provide us with a distorted sense of reality.
This illusion is known as the superiority illusion (or the superiority bias). We are quite confident that we are more interesting, attractive, friendly, and successful than the average person. We are quite confident that we are more interesting, attractive, friendly, and successful than the average person. We may not admit it openly when questioned, but we have a strong sense that this is correct. [这种错觉称为“优势错觉”。我们信心十足地认为自己比一般人更有趣，更有魅力，更友好，更成功。当人问起时，我们表面不会承认，但是内心却对自己的判断笃信不疑。]
While we do not recognize our own biases, we can often detect biases in others.[我们并不知道这是自己的错觉，不过虽然我们意识不到自己的偏见，但却能发现别人的偏见。]
Most of us believe we are superior in many ways to other individuals. This means we see ourselves as better, not everyone else as better. Therefore, (a) we all have a slightly different views the world, and (b) we are able to detect cognitive illusions, such as the superiority illusion, in others. Because we can identify these illusion and biases in others but not in ourselves, we conclude that we are less susceptible to bias than most other people. In essence, this means we hold the illusion that we are immune to illusions. This is the irony of cognitive illusions. Our tendency to perceive ourselves as less susceptible to bias than the rest of the human race was termed the bias blind spot by the psychologist Emily Pronin of Princeton University. [大多数人相信自己在很多方面比其他人优秀，这意味着我们认为自己优于别人。这揭示了1）我们对世界的看法会稍有不同；2）我们还能够发现他人的认知错觉，如优势错觉。因为我们能够分辨出别人的错觉和偏见，却发现不了自己的，所以我们认定自己比大多数人更少出现错觉和偏见。我们实际上有这样的错觉，并对这样的错觉是免疫的。这正是认知错觉的讽刺之处。我们自认为比别人有更少的偏见，这称为“偏向盲点”。]
People tend to judge the extent of other people’s bias according to their behavior but judge their own biases according to their internal feelings, thoughts, and motivations.[大家根据别人的行为来判断其偏见程度，却根据内心感受，想法和动机来判断自己的偏见。] Scalia seems to have experienced an introspection illusion. An introspection illusion is the strong sense people have that they can directly access the processes underlying their mental states. Most mental processes, however, are largely unavailable for conscious interpretation. The catch is that people are unaware of their unawareness.[内省错觉是指人们的一种强烈感觉，认为自己能够了解决定心理状态的心理过程。大多数心理过程是无法用理性解释的，潜在的不利因素是大家不知道自己的无知。]
We can unknowingly create verbal rationalizations for preferences and intentions that we do not actually possess.[我们会无意识地口头解释未曾有过的偏好和动机。] Often, we are wasting valuable time. Studies show that thinking too much can lead to suboptimal judgments.
Our capacity to envision a different time and place is critical for our survival. It allows us to plan ahead, greatly increasing our odds of sticking around this planet. It motivates us to save food and resources for a time when we expect them to be less available. It enables us to endure hard work in the present in anticipation of a future reward, or to search for an appropriate long-term partner. Our voyage is hardly limited to the recent past and future. It can expand to a time before and after out own existence. This allows us to forecast how our current behavior may influence future generations. [畅想不同的时空对我们的生存至关重要，让我们能够未雨绸缪，大大提高我们在这个星球的生存机会。这种能力促使我们储备食物和资源，应对可能出现的短缺。这种能力让我们能够承受眼前的工作压力，因为内心期待着未来的犒赏，或者也会让我们去寻找一个合适的长期合作伙伴。这种能力会超越我们自身存在的时段，让我们能够预见当下的行为怎样影响后世。]
Are we the only ones with a capacity for prospection? Do we share this ability with other species? … Certain animal behaviors, such as storing food or seasonal migration, do not necessarily involve an understanding of future need. These tendencies can simply reflect an evolved genetic predisposition. [储备食物或者季节性迁徙，并不一定是考虑未来的需求。这些行为只不过体现了进化后的遗传易感性。]
1.3.2 The Evolution of Prospection
Mental time travel—going back and forth through time and space in one’s mind—may be the most extraordinary of human talents. It is also one that seems necessary for optimism. If we are unable to imagine ourselves in the future, we may not be able to be positive about our prospects, either. [思想上的时间旅行，让思维穿梭于时间和空间，这可能是人类最卓越的才能。对于乐观而言，这个才能必不可少。如果我们无法想象未来的自己，或许也就无法想象美好的前景。]
The posterior part of the cabdrivers’ hippocampi was larger than average. The hippocampus (there is one on each side of the brain) is a region that is crucial for memory. The posterior bit is particularly important for spatial memory. [出租车司机大脑海马体的后部比一般人大。海马体是有关记忆的重要区域，对空间记忆来说尤其重要。]
The term mental time travel was first coined by the Canadian psychologist Endel Tulving to refer to our capacity for revisiting the past and imaging the future. K.C had suffered damage to his frontal and temporal lobes [大脑额叶和颞叶都遭到了损伤], including a lesion in his hippocampus. Two decades laters, Eleanor Maguire examined amnesiac patients with brain damage confined to their hippocampi. She found that those patients, just like K.C,. were not able to construct detailed images of future scenarios. Without working hippocampi, the patients appeared to be stuck in time— unable to revisit the past or mentally explore the future.
The vital difference in the level of sophistication of future thinking between humans and birds lies in our frontal lobes [额叶]…The rapid development of human frontal lobes allowed for the ability to make tools, find novel solutions to old problems, plan steps that would make goals more achievable, see far into the future, and possess self-awareness. [额叶的快速发展，让人类能够制作工具，能够为旧问题寻找新的解决方式，能够制定步骤实现目标，能够用长远眼光看待未来，能够有自知之明。]
The only way conscious mental time travel could have been selected for over the course of evolution is if it had merged at the same time as false beliefs. In other words,** an ability to imagine the future had to develop side by side with positive biases. The knowledge of death had to emerge at the same time as its irrational denial.** [在进化过程中，思维时光穿梭的能力想要发展，必须满足一个条件才行，那就是这种能力必须和错误的信念共存。换句话说，想象未来的能力必须与乐观偏见并驾齐驱。对死亡的认识必须与不理智的否认态度同时出现。]
Optimism does not exist without at least an elementary ability to consider the future, as optimism is by definition a positive belief about what is yet to come, and without optimism, prospection would be devastating. [如果缺少思考未来的基本能力，乐观将不复存在，因为从定义上讲，乐观就是对尚未发生的事情持积极态度；而如果没有乐观，展望未来的能力就会毁灭一切。]
The term self-fulfilling prophecy was coined by the sociologist Robert Merton in 1948… Self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true. [“自证预言” 一词由社会学家罗伯特.默顿在1948年首次提出。自证预言指一开始对形势的错误见解激发的行为，而这一行为却让原本错误的见解成真。]
Pygmalion effect, after George Bernard Shaw’s play. Shaw’s Pygmalion is a classic makeover tale— the story of a professor who transforms a working-class girl into an upper-class lady. [“皮格马利翁”效应一词源于萧伯纳的戏剧《皮格马利翁》，讲述一个教授把工人阶级的女孩改造成了上流社会的贵妇。]
In real life, however, educators, as well as the rest of us, hold relatively stable preconceptions that are, in general, not based on real evidence. Teachers have been shown to form predictions regarding new students’ achievements based on race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic level, and even physical attractiveness. This can be dangerous. Expectations are likely to influence a child’s performance, ultimately altering his future. In fact, the Pygmalion effect is thought to be a significant factor in producing and maintaining gender and racial gaps in IQ testing, GPAs, and college success. [在现实生活中，教育者会和其他人一样持有一定的成见，而这些看法往往不是由真实的证据得出的。研究显示，老师会根据新学生的种族、性别、民族、社会阶层，甚至外貌形成预期。这么做很危险。预期可能会影响孩子的表现，最后改变他们的未来。皮格马利翁效应是导致智商测试、学业平均成绩、大学成就中性别和种族差异的重要因素。]
When individuals are reminded of their membership in a group (such as gender or race), the stereotype associated with that group is more likely to influence their behavior.
What Sara Bengtsson’s study shows, as well as Jane Elliott’s field experiment, is that the influence of stereotypes is surprisingly fluid. New expectations can rapidly take over old ones quickly substituting one behavior for another. This fluidity is encouraging. It means that with guided intervention, we may be able to reverse the negative effects of stereotypes on an individual’s performance.[成见具有惊人的灵活性。新的预期可以很快取代旧的，迅速用一种行为替代另一种。这种灵活性无疑是鼓舞人心的，意味着只要采取加以指导的干预，我们或许可以扭转成见对个人表现带来的负面影响。]
When neurons in a specific part of the brain are active, their consumption of oxygen is increased. In response, blood flow will be enhanced to that region, supplying hemoglobin. This leads to local changes in the concentration of deoxyhemoglobin and oxyhemoglobin, which alters the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) signal that is recorded by the scanner. [大脑某个具体不稳的神经元活动时，耗氧量就会上升。相应区域的血液流量也会增大，提供血红蛋白。这改变了该区域脱氧血红蛋白和氧合血红蛋白的浓度，改变了扫描仪器记录下来的磁共振成像信号。]
The frontal cortex is a large area of the brain and includes anatomically and functionally distinct subregions. It is the most recently developed part of the brain, and it is not found in animals at the lower end of the evolutionary scale. [额叶皮质时大脑中很大的区域，包括了结构和功能迥然不同的分区，是大脑最后才得以进化的部分，而位于进化链低端的动物甚至没有这个部位。]
The frontal cortex has enlarged disproportionately in human evolution relative to the rest of the brain. Its physical development is the main reason why we have a relatively larger brain than most other animals. The frontal lobes are critical for functions that are uniquely human, such as language and theory of mind. Theory of mind is our ability to think about what other people are thinking. [相比于大脑的其它部分，额叶皮质在进化过程中发展得有些不成比例。额叶皮质体积变大也是人类大脑比其它多数动物更大的主要原因。]
The frontal lobes are critical for functions that are uniquely human, such as language and theory of mind. Theory of mind is our ability to think about what other people are thinking. …Frontal lobes are involved in executive functions. Executive functions are those that enable us to identify future goals and recognize the actions that will move us toward achieving those goals. The ability to predict which behaviors will lead to which outcomes, differentiate desired outcomes from unwanted outcomes and promote actions that lead to the sought-after (追求，探索) results.
When the brain doesn’t get what it expects, it frantically tries to figure out what went awry. The signal in the frontal cortex may have been modulating attention…The importance of this signal is that it can facilitate learning. As learning from errors is critical for directing our behavior toward optimal functioning, enhanced attention to errors would lead to better performance on the next trial.
Defensive pessimism: holding low expectations will protect us from disappointment
Why would a bleak outlook result in such tragic deaths? It seems that a pessimistic outlook promoted risk-taking behavior because the pessimists believed they did not have much to lose. Optimists envision a glorious future and are reluctant to disappear into oblivion.
1.3.3 When Private Optimism Meets Public Despair
The people’s urgent need for good news most likely drove positive expectations well above the baseline. It is during hard times that people rely on optimism the most.
Jonsthan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the feeling of elevation, describes such instances as erasing cynicism and generating hope and optimism. According to Haidt, such occurrences stimulate the vague nerve [迷走神经], which triggers the release of oxytocin. The vague nerve is one of the twelve cranial nerves. Its course starts in the brain stem [脑干], which is an evolutionarily old part of the brain that plays a key role in regulating vital functions. The nerve extends all the way from the brain stem through the neck to the chest and abdomen. It conveys sensory information to the brain that reflects the body’s internal state, as well as sends information from the brain to the rest of the body. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus [下丘脑] and stored in the pituitary [垂体], which is situated just beneath the hypothalamus and secretes hormones. When triggered, oxytocin is discharged into the bloodstream, and it also binds to receptors in the brain, particularly in regions involved in emotional and social processing. High levels of oxytocin reduce our uncertainty about social stimuli [stimulus的复数].
Amygdala [杏仁核] engages in processing social signals, especially ambiguous ones.
Reduced social stress and uncertainty, along with an increase in approach behavior, should enhance trust among individuals. [社交压力和不确定性减少，亲近行为增多，这些会加强人与人之间的信任。]
Why do we see such a disconnect? Why is it that people continually underestimate their own risks while overestimating the severity of the situation for the rest of society? People tend to feel more optimistic about things they believe they can control.
- There is one additional factor that comes into play—the power of relativity. Our brain plays a little trick that boosts positive illusions. Not only do people hold optimism bias about their personal future; in addition, they hold a pessimistic bias about everyone else’s.
1.3.4 The Unexpected Ingredient for Well-being
Studies show that just taking care of a plant is positively related to well-being.
What else is related to happiness? According to the survey, of you hold a PhD, go to church (or another religious center), and play sports, you are seven times more likely to be happy-go-lucky than someone who does not have a PhD, never goes to church, and shuns physical activity.
The notion that raising children is negatively related to happiness was supported by a study conducted by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman (prospect theory: how people make decision under uncertainty). What really matters is when, and how often, we feel irritated, anxious, satisfied. Our happiness is thus not affected to a large extent by reflecting on our lives, but by the flood of feelings that are constantly generated within us. However, most of questionnaires of subjective well-being ask us to reflect and assess our general satisfaction with life rather than our daily experienced happiness…The consistent conclusion across studies that children do not necessarily bring us joy conflicts with conventional wisdom in a striking manner. Why do individuals insist and often strongly believe, that their happiness is rooted in the existence of their offsprings? One explanation is that happiness, whether experienced or reflected, is not necessarily the most significant factor for the continuation of humankind. Passing on our genes, on the other hand, is.
A higher income may indeed influence reflected satisfaction with life without significantly enhancing our experienced happiness.
Focusing illusion: exaggerated importance we attribute to specific aspects of our lives when we are asked about them.
The importance of relative wealth to our well-being explains counterintuitive findings in the literature, such as why an increase in a nation’s GDP over time is not accompanied by in increase in general subjective well-being. While the country may be getting wealthier, the individual’s relative economic status remains the same, and thus happiness stays constant. Relativity is a crucial aspect of human psychology. Consider the way we perceive our physical environment. The extent of change that needs to occur in the sat of our surroundings in order for us to notice a difference is dependent on preliminary states…Therefore the more you have the more you need to increase your wealth in order to even notice a difference that would affect your happiness.
Andrew Yonelinas, a psychologist renowned for his dual-process theory of recognition: memory retrieval includes two distinct processed familiarity and recollection. These two memory processes have been shown to be functionally and neuro-anatomically distinct. They rely on different brain regions within the medial part of the temporal lobes.[两个记忆过程（熟悉感和回忆）在功能和神经解剖方面都有不同。两者依赖大脑额叶中部的不同区域。] While a region called the hippocampus [海马体] is crucial for recollection but not for familiarity, the adjacent perirhinal cortex [鼻周皮层] signals familiarity. Amnesiacs [健忘症患者] who have sustained damage to the hippocampus but whose surrounding cortex is intact usually suffer impaired recollection, but they know when something is familiar. They may know they have met you before, but they will have no memory of the episodic context of the encounter.
Having extremely vivid memories of past emotional experiences and only weak memories of past everyday events means we maintain a biased perception of the past. The two other principal factors that lead us to mis-predict what will make us happy are the same ones that make us mis-predict what will devastate us: our tendency to underestimate our rapid adaptation to almost any new circumstance; when we think about how a higher income, more vacation time, or better health will affect our happiness, we tend to focus on that one factor and disregard everything else which will stay the same. [聚焦幻觉] While severely depressed patients are pessimistic, mildly depressed people are actually pretty good at predicting what may happen to them in the near future—a phenomenon known as depressive realism. [抑郁现实主义]
The optimism bias is crucial ingredient for keeping us happy. When people perceive the future accurately, when they are well aware that none of the things people assume will make them happy is likely to have any lasting significance on their well-being, when they take off their rose-tinted glasses and see things more clearly, them become depressed—clinically depressed.
Hui: We need to keep the optimism bias to be happy?? Why can’t we just accept who we are?
1.3.5 When things go wrong: depression, interpretation, and genes
The notion of optimistic and pessimistic explanatory styles was put forward by the psychologist Martin Seligman. He came up “learned helplessness.”
The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are drugs that enhance the function of the neurotransmitter serotonin. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that enables communication between neurons in the brain…The majority of antidepressants, such as Prozac, are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)…gene coding for serotonin function predicts a person’s likelihood of suffering depression.
The amygdala is a structure deep in the brain that processes emotional stimuli. It is also involved in generating physiological responses to these stimuli. Amygdala activity is regulated by parts of the frontal cortex, in particular the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). In individuals with a short allele of the serotonin-transporter gene, there is reduced connectivity between the ACC and the amygdala. This means that the two structures are not as good at communicating with each other. [杏仁核是大脑深处处理情绪刺激的结构，同时人对刺激的心理反应也少不了它。额叶皮层的一部分负责管理杏仁核的活动，尤其是ACC。如果一个人的serotonin-transporter gene等位基因是短的，那么前扣带皮层ACC和杏仁核的关联性就会降低，也就是说这两个结构的沟通能力就没那么好。]
Hui: 有几个专业名词反复出现[单词]，serotonin——5-羟色胺，allele——等位基因，amygdala——杏仁核，anterior cingulate cortex——前扣带皮层，frontal cortex——额叶皮层
This is known as fear extinction—the process of learning that something that was previously threatening no longer is. Fear extinction involves the regulation of amygdala activity by the ACC. As the connectivity between these structures is relatively impaired in carries of the short allele, these individuals will be less capable of extinguishing their fear. They will be more likely to maintain high levels of anxiety and be prone to depression and other mood disorders. [“恐惧消退”指的是明白以前具有威胁性的事情不再构成威胁这一过程。恐惧消退需要前扣带皮层管理杏仁核的活动。由于等位基因较短的人这两个结构的联系有所削弱，这样的人就很难驱散自己的恐惧。因此他们更可能保持高度紧张核焦虑，并且容易出现抑郁核其它情绪紊乱的状况。]
hippocampus (which has an important role in memory) and the striatum (which is involved in motor function, reward processing, and generating expectations of pleasure and pain), as well as other brain regions I focus on to a lesser degree, such as the thalamus and the habitual.
Hui: 这里几个专业名词[单词] hippocampus——海马体——记忆，striatum——纹状体——运动、奖赏、快乐痛苦的预期，amygdala——杏仁核，thalamus——丘脑，habitual.——缰核
1.3.6 The Value of Anticipation and the Cost of Dread
When it comes to adverse events, most of us choose to get it over with as soon as possible. The reason is simple: We want to avoid the dread that comes with anticipating pain. Instead of spending out time worrying and fearing, we would rather face the pain immediately and be done with it. [一旦遇到糟糕的事情，大多数人都会选择尽快搞定。原因很简单：我们不想因为未来的痛苦而畏惧。]
The pain matrix is a network of brain regions that are associated with processing different aspects of the pain experience. This network includes the somatosensory cortex, which responds to the physical aspects of pain, as well as areas thought to respond to emotional processing, such as the amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate. [疼痛矩阵是大脑中处理不同疼痛体验的有关区域网络。这个网络包括躯体感觉皮质(somatosensory cortex)，它会对身体疼痛作出反应，另外还包括对情感作出反应的区域，比如杏仁核与前扣带皮质(rostral anterior cingulate)]
Anticipation seemed to mimic the actual experience of pain. Dreaders also had greater activity in areas thought to modulate attention to pain, which suggests that dread enhanced attention to the physical aspects of the expected pain. If anticipating an adverse event activates areas of the brain that normally process the physical experience of pain, it is hardly surprising that anticipating a painful event has a negative effect on our well-being similar to that of actually experiencing it. [期待过程似乎模拟了真实的疼痛感。在恐惧时，大脑中调节疼痛注意力区域的活动也增强了，这说明恐惧感能够提升对身体疼痛的注意力。如果期待消极事件也能激发处理身体疼痛的大脑区域，那么期待痛苦的事件就和经历这件事类似，会对我们的快乐造成负面影响。]…In a like manner, anticipation of a pleasurable event seems to activate neural systems that are also engaged while actually experiencing the enjoyable event. For example, a study showed that when people imagine a future vacation, the striatum [纹状体]—a brain region that responds to actual rewards, such as food, sex, and money [这块大脑区域也会对实际奖赏作出反应，比如食物、性和钱]— is activated.
Temporal discounting: the tendency to value the present more than the future…drives us to consume goods as soon as possible and delay pain until sometime in the unforeseeable future. This is not only because we tend to value the here and now more than the there and later but also because we perceive the future as uncertain.
Economists assume that people with high discounting rates are impulsive. These individuals are thought not to be concerned about the future as much as they should be. They don’t have savings, and they might indulge in unhealthy practices such as drinking and smoking, which carry penalties in the future…temporal discounting is partially due to people’s belief that gains will be followed by more gains and that losses will somehow be avoidable in the future.
1.3.7 Why do things seem better after we choose them?
Free-choice paradigm: Our tendency to reevaluate out options once we formulate a decision is a powerful one. After making a difficult choice between two equally valued options, people subsequently value the selected alternative more strongly than they initially had, and the discarded one less so. Jack Brehm first discovered this phenomenon in 1956.
Experiment on amnesiacs: In 2001, a group of Harvard psychologists set out to examine whether amnesiacs/æm’ni:ziæk/ show changes in preferences after making decisions, even though they cannot remember which option they have chosen. The amnesiac patients had suffered hippocampus damage, which prevented them from being able to form new memories. The hippocampus is a brain structure in the medial temporal lobe that is important for the formation and consolidation of memories that can be consciously retrieved………..(The result indicated) we do not need to consciously remember that we made a choice in order for that choice to change our preference. This give clues to Brehm’s phenomenon:
We don’t need our hippocampi for our choices to change our preferences. The process relies on brain structures that are evolutionarily old. Our data revealed that the change was observed in the same part of the brain that responds to rewards such as food, love, or money—the caudate nucleus [尾状核]. The caudate nucleus, a cluster of nerve cells deep in the brain, is part of a larger structure, the striatum [纹状体]. The caudate has been shown to process rewards and signal the expectation of them.
Why decisions alter preference? According to Cognitive Dissonance Theory, having to make a choice between two similarly desirable alternatives triggers psychological discomfort. This is because the decision conflicts with the desirable aspects of the rejected alternative, and with the undesirable aspects of the selected alternative. By evaluating the options post choice, in a way that is consistent with your decision, reduces psychological tension.
Neurons in the caudate that are sensitive to dopamine signal the predicted value of different options. By tapping into these signals, we can learn about the choices that people are likely to make at a later time.
1.3.8 How emotion changes our past?
In the word of the “god-father” of experimental psychology, William James, “An impression may be so exciting emotionally almost to leave a scar upon the cerebral tissue.”
Talarico and Rubin reached very similar conclusions to those arrived at by Neisser more than a decade earlier: Flashbulb memories are not more accurate than “regular” memories, but they certainly seem so.
For people who were there—staring at the towers falling and at the victims jumping to their deaths—memories of those experiences were qualitatively different from memories of other past memorable events. In contrast, for individuals who learned of the towers falling via the Internet or TV, their memories, although vivid, were not very different from memories of a summer internship or a move to a new city. [和之前Talarico & Rubin的结论不同]
Studies in animals show that the amygdala is especially important for expressing fear, as well as for learning about dangerous stimuli….The amygdala modifies the storage of memories both directly, by projecting to other brain structures involved in the consolidation of memories, such as the nearby hippocampus, and indirectly, via stress hormones that enhance memory consolidation.
Para-hippocampal cortex is thought to be involved in processing and recognizing details of a visual scene. Psychologists have previously discovered that when we view an emotional event, our attention is focused on the central arousing aspects of the event (such as the towers collapsing) at the expense of peripheral details (such as the people standing next to us). The outcome is poor encoding of peripheral details, which results in less involvement of the posterior para-hippocampal cortex during encoding and retrieval of memories. If neurons of the para-hippocampal are less active when arousing incidents are recollected and neurons of the amygdala are more active, this may explain why when we recall shocking events, we remember the central emotional details and our feelings at the time but cannot always provide accurate details about out surroundings.
It is critical to understand precisely which details of emotional events are remembered better than those of mundane events, and which are remembered less well. while we still do not have clear answers, we do know that when it comes to the most arousing events of our lives, our confidence in our memories is not a reliable indication of how accurate they are. This has important implications for the legal system, especially regarding the validity of eyewitness testimony, which can often be inaccurate without any bad intention on the part of the witnesses……The function of memory is to be able to use past experiences to guide future thoughts and actions……Believing that we can use a negative past experience to learn and do better in the future may, in fact, fuel optimism. Optimistic people are not necessarily those with a positively biased view of the past; neither are they the ones holding a positively biased view of the present. They are the ones who see the future thorough rose-tinted glasses despite all the disappointing experiences they have had.
1.3.9 How the Brain Turns Lead into Gold?
Although we dread hardship, such as divorce, unemployment, or sickness, believing that we will never get over them, we are usually wrong. People tend to bounce back to normal levels of well-being surprisingly fast following almost any misfortune.
The trick the brain plays once it encounters the unbearable is to quickly find the silver lining. This is an adaptive way of viewing adversities, as it drives us to shun hardships, to keep away from danger, and to take care of ourselves…In order to continue functioning, we quickly need to reevaluate our circumstances and reverse our evaluation of the situation that has befallen us so that we can carry on with our lives.
Ignoring the elements that would remain unchanged and focusing only on those that would change results in a mismatch between our predictions of how we would feel and how we actually end up feeling. Not only do we fail to take into account things that stay the same; we also fail to appreciate our remarkable ability to adapt to new circumstances. The human brain is an extremely flexible and adaptive piece of machinery.
The mind does better than simply adjust itself to new situations. In order to fully adapt, it creates new capabilities to compensate for those that have been lost.
rACC (前扣带回皮质喙部) and then ventral medial prefrontal cortex (腹内侧前额皮层) were responsible for inhibiting the fear response that was generated by the amygdala. The amygdala is critical for producing fear reactions to a conditioned stimulus due to learned associations. When the stimulus is no longer a valid sign of danger, the fear response will be switched off, and the rACC is key in that process.
Our aspiration to achieve positive outcomes and avoid negative ones is so robust that it alters they way we visually perceive our surroundings…..People are more likely to perceive their environment inaccurately, finding it less intimidating.
1.3.10 A dark side to optimism?
In a series of studies, Neil Weinstain (he coined the term optimism bias) showed that people believe they are less likely than average to suffer misfortunes (such as being fired from a job, being diagnosed with lung cancer, developing a drinking problem)……We truly think our children will grow up to be healthy and successful. And when standing at the altar or civil registry desk, we expect to be blissfully married for the rest of our lives. And yet, half of us are wrong. The decree nice is so common that in the words of Oscar Wilde, “the world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.”……Remarriage, as Samuel Johnson described it, is “the triumph of hope over experience.” Operation Barbarrossa, Hitler expected a rapid triumph in the fight against the Soviet Union, huge economic cost
Moderate optimists worked longer hours, expected to retire later in life, saved more (with longer planning horizons), and smoked less than all other individuals. Extreme optimists worked fewer hours, saved less, and smoked more.
From investment choices to productivity, optimism turned out to be a crucial factor. Moderate optimism correlated with sensible decisions, while extreme optimism correlated with seemingly irrational decisions. As in almost everything in life, moderation seemed to be key.
1.3.11 From prediction to perception to action
The first argument this book makes is relatively simple: Most of us are optimistic. Although good things may transpire, on average our expectations exceed future outcomes. We are not necessarily aware of our bias. Like other illusions of the human brain, the optimism bias is not easily accessible for introspection……Research shows that most of us spend less time mulling over negative outcomes than we do over positive ones, and when we do contemplate defeat and heartache, we tend to consider how those can be avoided.
It is tempting to speculate that optimism was selected for during evolution precisely because positive expectations enhance the probability of survival……Yet with all the good that optimistic illusions have to offer, there are relatively small biases of different individuals will combine to create a much larger illusion, which can lead to disaster (the credit crunch of 2008). Each investor, homeowner, banker, and economic regulator expected slightly better profits than were realistically warranted. On its own, each bias would not have created huge losses. However, when bubble, which when it burst, generated large losses for many individuals.