Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The brain's rose-colored glasses

People tend to remain overly optimistic even when faced with information about a gloomy future. A study now shows that people are selectively worse at incorporating information about a worse-than-expected future. It also describes the learning signals in the brain that correlate with this bias.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: People are biased toward unrealistically optimistic views about their own future, an effect known as the optimism bias.

W.B. Park


  1. Weinstein, N.D. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 39, 806–820 (1980).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Sharot, T. The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain (Pantheon, New York, 2011).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  3. Sharot, T., Riccardi, A.M., Raio, C.M. & Phelps, E.A. Nature 450, 102–105 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Sharot, T., Korn, C.W. & Dolan, R.J. Nat. Neurosci. 14, 1475–1479 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Gläscher, J., Daw, D., Dayan, P. & O'Doherty, J.P. Neuron 66, 585–595 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Hare, T.A., Camerer, C.F. & Rangel, A. Science 324, 646–648 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Lenartowicz, A., Verbruggen, F., Logan, G.D. & Poldrack, R.A. J. Cogn. Neurosci. published online, doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00031 (31 March 2011).

  8. Alloy, L.B. & Ahrens, A.H. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 52, 366–378 (1987).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Chen, C.H., Suckling, J., Lennox, B.R., Ooi, C. & Bullmore, E.T. Bipolar Disord. 13, 1–15 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. Science 185, 1124–1131 (1974).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Murayama, K., Matsumoto, M., Izuma, K. & Matsumoto, K. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 20911–20916 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Plassmann, H., Shiv, B., O'Doherty, J. & Rangel, A. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 1050–1054 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L. & Tobby, J. The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture (Oxford University Press, New York, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Nes, L.S. & Segerstrom, S.C. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 10, 235–251 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Giltay, E.J., Geleijnse, J.M., Zitman, F.G., Buijsse, B. & Kromhout, D. J. Psychosom. Res. 63, 483–490 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Keise Izuma or Ralph Adolphs.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Izuma, K., Adolphs, R. The brain's rose-colored glasses. Nat Neurosci 14, 1355–1356 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing