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Humans hold unrealistically optimistic predictions of what their future holds. These predictions are generated and maintained as people update their beliefs more readily when receiving information that calls for adjustment in an optimistic direction relative to information that calls for adjustment in a pessimistic direction. Thus far this update bias has been shown when people make estimations regarding the self. Here, we examine whether asymmetric belief updating also exists when making estimations regarding population base rates. We reveal that while participants update beliefs regarding risk in the population in an asymmetric manner, such valence-dependent updating of base rates can be accounted for by priors. In contrast, we show that optimistic updating regarding the self is a robust phenomenon, which holds even under different empirical definitions of desirable information.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adolescent, Adult, Bias, Culture, Forecasting, Humans, Models, Psychological, Young Adult