Positive Thinking DEBUNKED: Belief in a positive future found to halt present-day action (and lead to bad outcomes)

A study published in Psychological Science revealed that people tend to think that other people who have a different opinion than theirs would eventually come around and understand their points of view. According to experts, this belief in a favorable future holds true across various contexts and cultures, which in turn provides a clearer picture on some of the causes and consequences of political differences seen today. However, the experts noted that this belief in a favorable future stalls people from taking actions to make the possibilities into a real one.

The findings were based on analyses of six related studies, carried out by a team of researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School, University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business, and Harvard Business School.

“It often seems that partisans believe they are so correct that others will eventually come to see the obviousness of their correctness. Ironically, our findings indicate that this belief in a favorable future may diminish the likelihood that people will take action to ensure that the favorable future becomes reality…The most interesting aspect of this to me is how robust it is. This pattern of findings emerges for an unexpectedly diverse range of preferences, views, and beliefs — and it emerges across cultures. People falsely believe that others will change in ways that align with their current preferences, views, and beliefs,” said Todd Rogers, lead author and behavioral scientist at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“People holding a particular view…are more likely to believe that future others will share their view than to believe that future others will have an opposing view.. Six studies demonstrated this belief in a favorable future (BFF) for political views, scientific beliefs, and entertainment and product preferences,” the researchers wrote online.

A deeper insight on the favorable future phenomena

In one of the studies, the experts asked more than 250 participants about their views on nine different topics including ideology, climate change, President Trump, the National Basketball Association, and soda. The participants also reported how they thought other people’s perceptions on the same topics would vary between now and the future. The results showed that the participants’ own beliefs influenced how they thought people would think of the same topic in the future. For instance, 91 percent of participants who supported easier access to abortion believed that more people will eventually accept the topic in the future. this, compared with only 47 percent in those who supported making abortion less accessible.

In another study, the researchers examined how the phenomenon would affect the points of view of more than 800 people from China, Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.K. The research team found that the belief in favorable future was apparent across different cultures. The scientists also noted that the phenomenon remained persistent even when people were incentivized in making accurate predictions about the future. In yet another study, the experts also found that believing in a more positive future may actually influence other people’s perception between the present and the future.

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