What is the scientific term for the tendency of people to believe, that their expected experience positively deviates from what their first- or second-hand experience suggests?

An example for this effect would be an older European Lady dating a young African man and - despite knowing that many such relationships are dominated by asymmetric economical and romantical interests - believes, that her own relationship will be different. Another example are people who are educated and experienced enough to know how cults work, yet fail to identify the cult they themselves are currently involved in.

Generally, I would say it is a form of self-delusion, or hope, if you want to give it a positive spin - but I am looking for a more specific term for this particular type of self-delusion.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you mean first or second-hand experience. For example, if the woman herself previously had a failed relationship with a black man, then that would be first-hand experience; and if she had friends who dated black men and it didn't work out, then that would be second-hand experience. The cognitive bias referring to the expectation of different results from the same personal experience is called empathy gap. Optimism bias refers to people's overly-optimistic assessment of their own success relative to the average. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Nov 10, 2020 at 22:00

1 Answer 1


Are you referring to the optimism bias from a social psychology perspective?

Your brain has a built-in optimism bias. The phenomenon is also often referred to as "the illusion of invulnerability," "unrealistic optimism," and a "personal fable."

This bias leads us to believe that we are less likely to suffer from misfortune and more likely to attain success than reality would suggest.2 We believe that we will live longer than the average, that our children will be smarter than the average, and that we will be more successful in life than the average. But by definition, we can't all be above average.

Source: VeryWellMind

  • $\begingroup$ My brain hasn't, but the term "optimism bias" is exactly what I was looking for. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2020 at 20:34

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