Optimistic Belief Updating for Positive Life Events

Joseph Marks, Stephanie Baines

Research output: Other contribution


A recent methodology – namely, the error update task – used in the study of unrealistic optimism has provided a mechanistic account of how people maintain positive illusions about their future in the face of disconfirming evidence. This methodology has been used in a series of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies and neural moderators of unrealistic optimism have been established. A subsequent critique of the error update task by Shah et al. (in press) has cast doubt over the validity of these findings however, with the authors instead suggesting that apparent optimistic belief updating is in fact a statistical artefact resulting from a flawed methodology. Specifically, Shah et al. assert that the inclusion of positive events in the update task can help test the validity of the optimistic account of belief updating, while proponents have suggested that caution should be taken when adapting this task to study positive life events because there is a lack of accurate information regarding the likely frequency of such events. Using a subset of the life events used by Shah et al., the current paper demonstrates that optimistic belief updating can still be observed when positive life events are included in the error update task.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • optimism bias
  • biased learning
  • belief updating
  • unrealistic optimism
  • motivated reasoning
  • future projection


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