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In 1988, psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown published an article making the somewhat disturbing claim that positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook. They suggested that average people hold cognitive biases in three key areas:
- a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms;
- b) believing they have more control over their environment than they actually do; and
- c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify.
The typical person, it seems, depends on these happy delusions for the self-esteem needed to function through a normal day. It’s when the fantasies start to unravel that problems arise.