Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Success, Rationality, and Optimism: an Update

My own parallel projects have made progress lately and I feel confident that they will interface very nicely with the preparation for our project on success. My current ERC funded project, PERFECT, is entering its second year and articles describing some of our first results are being published. This week a paper in which I argue (with Kengo Miyazono) that delusional beliefs can have psychological and epistemic benefits (as well as obvious costs) has appeared in Erkenntnis, and I am curious to see what reactions it will provoke. It is the basis for a talk I will give later this month at the Royal College of Psychiatrists International Congress in Birmingham, where with Richard Bentall and Phil Corlett I will be examining the function of delusions. The fact that something so obviously detrimental and upsetting as a delusional belief may be found to play a useful role in some circumstances speaks to the complexity of the relationship between success and mental health.

My new project on costs and benefits of the optimism bias, even more tightly connected with my long-standing interest in success, is being launched in September, but we already have a website, a Twitter feed, and some plans for a workshop (in February 2016) and a public engagement event (in March 2016). The review paper I wrote with Magdalena Antrobus on optimism and realism and that appeared in Current Opinion in Psychiatry in November 2014 is the most popular on the journal site in terms of views, which testifies to the growing interest in the impact of cognitive styles on happiness, wellbeing, and success more widely.

Right now I am preparing a paper for a talk I will be giving on Friday to an interdisciplinary conference entitled "Deliberation, Interpretation, and Confabulation" (VU University Amsterdam), where I explore the costs and benefits of explanations that are not grounded on facts for our capacity to know ourselves and make good decisions. I hope the feedback will be useful to me when I sit down and think about how to investigate the issue of rationality or epistemic success.

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