Our Bias: Brains Optimized for Survival (Not Investing)

Fascinating piece in Time Magazine which looks at “Optimism” as an evolutionary survival mechanism.

This has significant ramifications for cognitive studies as well as for investing.

Excerpt:

“Scientists who study memory proposed an intriguing answer: memories are susceptible to inaccuracies partly because the neural system responsible for remembering episodes from our past might not have evolved for memory alone. Rather, the core function of the memory system could in fact be to imagine the future — to enable us to prepare for what has yet to come. The system is not designed to perfectly replay past events, the researchers claimed. It is designed to flexibly construct future scenarios in our minds. As a result, memory also ends up being a reconstructive process, and occasionally, details are deleted and others inserted . . .

To think positively about our prospects, we must first be able to imagine ourselves in the future. Optimism starts with what may be the most extraordinary of human talents: mental time travel, the ability to move back and forth through time and space in one’s mind. Although most of us take this ability for granted, our capacity to envision a different time and place is in fact critical to our survival.

It is easy to see why cognitive time travel was naturally selected for over the course of evolution. It allows us to plan ahead, to save food and resources for times of scarcity and to endure hard work in anticipation of a future reward . . .”

The entire piece makes for fascinating reading.

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Source:
The Optimism Bias
Tali Sharot
Time May. 28, 2011
http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,2074067,00.html

 

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