Wishful thinking  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality, or reality. Studies have consistently shown that holding all else equal, subjects will predict positive outcomes to be more likely than negative outcomes (see valence effect).

On the other hand, some psychologists believe that positive thinking is able to positively influence behavior and so bring about better results. They call it "Pygmalion effect".

Christopher Booker described wishful thinking in terms of

“the fantasy cycle” ... a pattern that recurs in personal lives, in politics, in history – and in storytelling. When we embark on a course of action which is unconsciously driven by wishful thinking, all may seem to go well for a time, in what may be called the “dream stage”. But because this make-believe can never be reconciled with reality, it leads to a “frustration stage” as things start to go wrong, prompting a more determined effort to keep the fantasy in being. As reality presses in, it leads to a “nightmare stage” as everything goes wrong, culminating in an “explosion into reality”, when the fantasy finally falls apart.

Contents

Notable examples

Prominent examples of wishful thinking include:

As a fallacy

In addition to being a cognitive bias and a poor way of making decisions, wishful thinking is commonly held to be a specific informal fallacy in an argument when it is assumed that because we wish something to be true or false, it is actually true or false. This fallacy has the form "I wish that P is true/false, therefore P is true/false." Wishful thinking, if this were true, would rely upon appeals to emotion, and would also be a red herring.

Wishful thinking may cause blindness to unintended consequences.

Reverse wishful thinking

Reverse wishful thinking is where someone assumes that because something is bad it is likely to happen. This may be to fulfill a prediction made by the speaker or because they are generally pessimistic.

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Wishful thinking" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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