Negative Consequences of a Pessimistic Bias

The optimistic bias is easy to demonstrate – people generally believe that they are less at risk than other people. Generally people do not show a pessimistic bias – believing they are at greater risk than other people. In an article published in Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (Helweg-Larsen, Sadeghian & Webb, 2002) we examined how people are viewed when they display a pessimistic bias. Two experiments showed that pessimistically biased individuals were less socially accepted and that this lack of acceptance originated in the presumption that pessimistically biased people are also hopeless, sad, and depressed. This research suggests one potential reason why people are optimistically biased, namely that pessimistically biased people are stigmatized and socially rejected.