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Optimism Bias

PilotOnline and U.S. News bring us one of those stories that just grips you in a very sad way. Not normally what I would write about on a Friday, but it is thought-provoking.

Last Friday, Rebekah and Austin Wesson left the courthouse in Wichita, Kansas after just getting married. The 19-year-old newlyweds could not stop smiling.

“I’m Mrs. Wesson,” Rebekah Wesson kept saying. Here is a picture of the couple that shows their happiness and hope of a wonderful future together:















On Saturday, one day after becoming husband and wife, the Wessons crashed into a tree. The pickup truck that they were riding in went off a dirt road. Austin Wesson, the driver, died at the scene. Rebekah Wesson died on Monday. Now their families are planning a funeral instead of checking Facebook to see their smiling faces on their honeymoon.

For some reason, while reading the article, I can’t help but keep looking at their picture. It causes me to ask myself, “what were they thinking in this picture”. I also think about how sad this is.

But here is the point of this blog. It’s what psychologists say that many of us do when we see bad news or bad things that happen to other people. This couldn’t happen to me!

At least that’s what psychologists tell us. It’s called optimism bias. The thought that “it won’t happen to me”. It’s why insurance companies never advertise how fast they pay. Airlines typically don’t advertise their safety record. Instead, it’s all about pricing.

It is the psychological principle that causes a person to believe that they are at a lesser risk of experiencing a bad event, as compared to others.

This blog isn’t counter to the power of prayer or the will of God. Instead, looking at this happy couple is a good reminder that bad things do happen. In the meantime, it’s up to us to exercise good behavior habits. It’s why a person might smoke. Or, why someone might be obese and continue to eat mass quantities.

It’s hard to alter bad behavior and eliminate risk. It goes against the optimism bias. The converse is reality. I remember when I sold Harley-Davidson motorcycles to put myself through law school. Invariably, I would hand the keys and paperwork to a new buyer and comment that I knew they would ride safely… but be careful of other drivers. No optimism can change negligence of someone else!


After that blog… I feel like I need something to pick us up a bit. So, here’s a pic o’ that makes me smile. I hope you have a great weekend!




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