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Dave, I'm not sure I agree with the conclusion of this study. It could be that the brain is selectively attending to anything that is consistent with its preconceived ideas. Optimism could be influenced by teaching, temperament, and culture, and the brain could attend to evidence which confirms it. In that case, the study has only demonstrated confirmation bias or cognitive inertia. To say this proves the brain is naturally wired for optimism goes too far. People who experience trauma expect danger to be lurking around every corner. It's clearly their experience that influences how they think the world is and how the brain filters information. I'd wager they find different results in war-torn third-world countries.

We are wired for is to seek pleasure. Rewarding stimuli flood areas in our brains with dopamine. The expectation of reward can be almost as stimulating as the reward itself. Alcoholics salivate when they pass the glowing neon sign of a bar, for example. Optimism makes us feel good, and as such it sells. We are bombarded with messages that prosperity is to be expected. Progress and economic growth are forces of nature. Romantic movies almost exclusively have happy endings. Self-help books are almost universally based on one central idea -- the power of positive thinking. The Law of Attraction has become a religion. What you have, then, is a positive cultural feedback loop. People want to feel good. Optimistic messages make them feel good. They pay for optimistic messages, which cement optimistic cognitive schemas. Disseminators of optimistic messages produce more of them in exchange for increasing pay. Schemas are further cemented. People become more dependent on continued messages the more the world fails to jibe with the schemas. They clamor for more, and more is produced.

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