Nature of Biases

Improving judgments about the likelihood of future events can save people’s lives. Whenever people are faced with information about terrorism risks, health risks, or impending natural disasters they must evaluate the likelihood that they are at risk and should take action. Classic theories of decision-making propose that judgments about the likelihood of events are based on consideration of objective facts. Ample evidence suggests, however, that judgments about the future are often biased in favor of desired outcomes. The methodologies of previous studies have made it impossible to verify that bias in judgments truly exists or identify the reason for bias. To encourage people to make accurate decisions, it is critical that mechanisms influencing prediction be understood.

These projects focus on whether optimism is the result of quick emotionally-based responses (Lench & Ditto, 2008; Lench, 2009), how people reduce optimism in some situations, and how people make judgments about what is likely to happen to themselves and to other people. These projects are all based on recent dual-process models (see the link to “theoretical model”).