Friday, November 9, 2007

Humans Are Physiologically Predisposed Toward Optimism. Lawyers Aren't.


Robert Lee Hotz describes in this morning's Wall Street Journal a series of recent studies indicating that the rostral anterior cingulate cortex of the human brain (top photo) creates a pervasive bias toward optimism, a finding that is supported by behavioral studies.  NYU neuroscientist Elizabeth Phelps explains:

If even half the time our actions work out well, our life is going to turn out for the better.  If you are pessimistic, you are unlikely to even try.

There is, however, one occupational exception to this bias toward optimism:

Surveying law students at the University of Virginia, [Penn neuroscientist Martin] Seligman found that pessimists got better grades, were more likely to make law review and, upon graduation, received better job offers.  There was no scientific reason. "In law," he said, "pessimism is considered prudence."

For more, see Robert Lee Hotz, Except in One Career, Our Brains Seem Built for Optimism.  The photos above are courtesy WSJ Online.


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