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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.
As a logical fallacy
In addition to being a cognitive bias and a poor way of making decisions, wishful thinking can also 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."
- The teacher gave us a difficult exam! We shouldn't have to be subjected to such stress under the course of our education.
Atheists argue much of theology, particularly arguments for the existence of God, is based on wishful thinking because it takes the desired outcome "God exists" and tries to prove it on the basis of a premise through reasoning which can be analysed as fallacious, but which may nevertheless be wished true in the mind of the believer. The same could perhaps be applied in reverse: the desired outcome of "god does not exist" preceeds arguments of proof.
- Harvey, Nigel (1992). Wishful thinking impairs belief-desire reasoning: A case of decoupling failure in adults?. Cognition 45 (2): 141–162.
- Gordon, Ruthanna (2005). Wishful thinking and source monitoring. Memory & Cognition 33 (3): 418–429.
- Sutherland, Stuart (1994) Irrationality: The Enemy Within Penguin. ISBN 0140167269 Chapter 9, "Drive and Emotion"
- Articles Thedict.net, About Wishful Thinking
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