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Wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality or reality.

Studies have consistently shown that holding all else equal, subjects will predict positive outcomes to be more likely than negative outcomes. See Positive outcome bias.

Prominent examples of wishful thinking include:

Reverse wishful thinking

Reverse wishful thinking is where someone assumes that because something is bad it is likely to happen. This may be to fulfill a prediction made by the speaker or because they are generally pessimistic.[citation needed] Notable here is the (occationalistic) and folksy 'Murphy's law'.

As a logical fallacy

In addition to being a cognitive bias and a poor way of making decisions, wishful thinking is commonly held to be a specific logical fallacy in an argument when it is assumed that because we wish something to be true or false that it is actually true or false. This fallacy has the form "I wish that P is true/false, therefore P is true/false."[1] Wishful thinking, if this were true, would underlie appeals to emotion, and would also be a red herring.

The charge of "wishful thinking" itself can be a form of circumstantial ad hominem argument, even a Bulverism.

Wishful thinking may cause blindness to unintended consequences.

Related fallacies are the negative proof and argument from ignorance fallacies ("It hasn't been proven false, so it must be true." and vice versa). For instance, a believer in UFOs may accept that most UFO photos are faked, but claim that the ones that haven't been debunked must be considered genuine.

Methods to eliminate wishful thinking

Reference class forecasting was developed to eliminate or reduce the effects of wishful thinking in decision making.[2]

See also


Further reading

External links

Template:Red Herring Fallacy

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