Humanities & Social Sciences Communications (Oct 2021)

Comparing personal and social optimism biases: magnitude, overlap, modifiability, and links with social identification and expertise

  • Tatjana Aue,
  • Mihai Dricu,
  • Dominik A. Moser,
  • Boris Mayer,
  • Stephanie Bührer

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 1
pp. 1 – 12


Read online

Abstract Individuals are more optimistic about their own future than a comparable person’s future (personal optimism bias). In addition, they show overoptimism toward people or social groups they identify with compared with those they do not identify with (social optimism bias). However, commonalities and differences between personal and social forms of optimism bias remain to be addressed. Data from an experiment on anticipated performances in soccer (including 160 participants), revealed (a) comparable magnitudes of personal and social optimism biases, and (b) only partial overlap between personal and social optimism biases. We further found the magnitude of the biases to depend on (c) prior experience in the investigated area. Social optimism bias, however, did not correlate with (d) the extent to which the participants identified with a social in-group. In addition, we demonstrate that (e) despite the availability of objective feedback, both personal and social optimism biases are hard to overcome. Our data further suggest (f) the existence of qualitatively different social optimism biases; biases that can possibly be distinguished by their degree of automaticity or the adoption of a more affective vs. utilitarian stance. Consequently, the present research reveals that the phenomenon of social optimism bias needs further refinement to adequately address its specific sub-components.