The link between optimism bias and attention bias: A neurocognitive perspective

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Abstract

Both optimism bias and reward-related attention bias have crucial implications for well-being and mental health. Yet, the extent to which the two biases interact remains unclear because, to date, they have mostly been discussed in isolation. Examining interactions between the two biases can lead to new directions in neurocognitive research by revealing their underlying cognitive and neurophysiological mechanisms. In the present article, we suggest that optimism bias and reward-related attention bias mutually enforce each other and recruit a common underlying neural network. Key components of this network include specific activations in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortex with connections to the amygdala. We further postulate that biased memory processes influence the interplay of optimism and reward-related attention bias. Studying such causal relations between cognitive biases reveals important information not only about normal functioning and adaptive neural pathways in maintaining mental health, but also about the development and maintenance of psychological diseases, thereby contributing to the effectiveness of treatment.

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