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Why's Everyone So Gloomy?

By Matt Ridley writing for Human Progress

Optimists can be viewed as annoying, irritating, and ignorant especially in the face of wider societal issues. In order to win power politically, you have to paint a picture of doom, sorrow, and suffering. The best songs are the sad ones, the ones about hurt, loss, and betrayal. same with plays, dramas, and poetry. And perhaps most significantly, good news doesn't sell, the media only prospers when there is bad news to amplify.

When the Swedish statistician and public health expert Hans Rosling began asking people in 2013 if the percentage of the world population that lives in extreme poverty almost doubled, almost halved, or stayed the same over the past 20 years? , he was astounded by their responses. Only 5% of 1,005 Americans got the right answer: Extreme poverty has been cut almost in half. A chimpanzee would do much better, he pointed out, by picking an answer at random. So people are worse than ignorant: They believe they know many dire things about the world that are, in fact, untrue.

Interestingly, Studies consistently find that people in developed societies tend to be pessimistic about their country and the world but optimistic about their own lives. The psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania suggests a reason for this: We think we are in control of our own fortunes but not those of the wider society.

Perhaps another explanation is that the media, art, and culture as mentioned earlier only ever convey or sell us the doom and negativity, so we perceive the world to be that way. However, we know our lives and know what we can or cannot do, so we tend to be more realistic about our own fortunes.

Read more on this by Matt Ridley writing for Human Progress