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(generated from captions) This Program is Captioned Live. # Theme music I'm Waleed Aly. Hi and welcome to Big Ideas, we're taking a look at Shakespeare, In this edition of Short Cuts, and evolutionary biology. the optimism bias, First up, a terrific conversation and actor John Bell between playwright David Williamson of Shakespeare for the 21st Century. on the production and interpretation and acted in his plays How Shakespeare wrote, managed and how Bell, the actor, the great characters he's played researches and shapes some of like Richard III, Lear and Leontes. between the playwright and the actor It's a very generous discussion at Noosa Longweekend Festival. about how the plays were written, John, can you tell us a bit in Shakespeare's time? workshopped and staged such storytelling momentum Why then they had except yours - lose now? that many productions - it was quite easy to write a play, (Chuckles) Well, in one way if you had a bit of talent, from an existing source - because you took your story he took from folk tales or history like most of Shakespeare's stories and legends - or the Greek and Roman myths in a way, you had your stock characters, and your grave digger and your prince you've got your king the audience knows who they all are, and so that's all set up and writing iambic pentameter and verse, and if you've got a bit of talent for reasonably quickly. you can rattle off a reasonable play They didn't want original stories. they'd heard before. They wanted stories They wanted the old stories retold. a hack playwright So it would be pretty easy to be you had to sort of be that good but to be a good one, and make the language extraordinary. and then do something more original and what - Which is what Shakespeare did around, they were all churning out, there were hundreds of playwrights theatres in London, 'cause there were so many The Globe held 3,000 people - they held audiences of about 3,000 - at least four of them - and there were all nearby - The Curtain, The Rose... The Globe,

to be churned out so there was a huge demand for plays of course, and a lot of them were just rubbish, a bit like a lot of television today. stock characters and stock images So a good playwright could take those something that was gold. and turn them into Shakespeare would've been writing - with the actors in the morning he'd be rehearsing and he was directing his own plays. 'cause he was an actor himself In the afternoon they'd perform them to write stuff for the next day. and then he would rush home at night

And he was a hard worker. he 'wouldn't be debauched', One of his contemporaries noticed with the boys after the show, he wouldn't go out to the pub and he'd go home to write. he'd say he was feeling sick

a hard worker and a dedicated artist, And that's why I talk about being

you discipline yourself. And so his life was pretty hectic

a manager of The Globe, because he was

he was directing, he was acting in the plays, a quarter of their material. and he was writing at least Also, the style of presentation in that day was different. of the actual theatrical event that people came to hear a play You note in your book rather than see it. Mm. And it was in broad daylight. the moonlight sleeps upon this bank' And they heard 'how sweet and accepted it immediately. wasn't it? So, it was more rapid-pace delivery, in London. Yes, I've been to the new Globe the new Globe? Has anybody here been to see (Inaudible) Yeah, yeah, right. to go on stage there, But it's fascinating, we were allowed with our production we were touring over there on the stage and they allowed us to play the curtain, onto the stage itself and when you walk out through and look around you, it's just faces, in the galleries and in the pit. people packed right around you So the audience was very, very close so much as talk to the audience, and you couldn't talk to each other straight at the audience, so all the speech was delivered and round here. up there and down there there was no scenery changes. And it was kept moving very fast, so, as you say, you had to tell them It was in broad daylight is this forest, where are we now, what is this place called, what

on this bank', 'how sweet the moonlight sleeps it was all done in the words. no lighting or anything like that. There was no effects, pretty easily, So you could direct a play their own plays. as the writers directed Everyone knew their parts, of where you were going to stand, there was not many choices moving, keep it on its feet, it's just keep the whole thing

in two hours flat. and you'd get through it very naturalistically So, and it was played or shouting. and there was no sort of bombast of acting, as he often mentioned. Shakespeare hated that sort the audience It was talking straight to very fast and keeping that play moving was the key to Elizabethan acting.

back in the late '80s, Yes, I, actually, Phillip Parsons. what's-his-name, Parsons? as near as he could, a reproduction Phillip Parsons did, in Elizabethan times. of the way it would've been acted It was quite startling.

choreographed... Instead of this heavily meeting and talking to each other, ..choreography of people delivered their lines, the actors just came straight out, not to each other... even in a duologue, ..voom, to the audience. ..but to the audience. and it was electric. They were storytelling that's how it actually happened.' I thought, 'Wow, It was a presentational style. Very much so, yeah. the worth of spectacle And of course, he realised too, so there were spectacular scenes - battle scenes and stuff, costumes, coronations, on that. they would lay a lot of money

of all the costumes and props - You see the accounts they kept

of money at the production as well. very expensive, they threw a lot and dance and song. And music was a very important part, So, it was pretty showbizzy, and deliver the words, it wasn't just stand there was a lot of theatrical tricks and stuff and when they moved indoors, into The Blackfriars, for instance, where Macbeth was performed, that was a smaller theatre, it was much more expensive to go there. The Globe cost you a penny to stand in the pit and sixpence for a seat. The Blackfriars was about five times as much. So it was a more exclusive audience.

A smaller theatre and it was dark so you could have lighting effects and tricks and there's a very interesting article I read by Ian Wright about Shakespeare using a kind of magic lantern

to project ghosts and spirits and a flying dagger in Macbeth, using this kind of technology. So he was very much into whatever was new and going, he was all for it. You say in the book, and I love this quote, that 'art is not an escape from life, but an engagement with it in all its aspects - the good, the bad, the ugly.' And that the central question it always asked is 'who are we and how shall we live?' Could you free-associate a bit on that

with reference to Shakespeare? 'Cause I thought it was a terrific quote. Um, well, who are we? I suppose what is great about playing a Shakespeare character is getting inside the mind of the character and finding the authenticity of that person's motivation and their actions. It takes a bit of research. When Anna and I were playing the Macbeths we had to do a bit of research into serial killers

and it's not a very pleasant thing to have to do. It's fascinating but you meet some pretty repulsive people if you're researching serial killers. But you've got to try and understand what these people are going through. When I did Richard III, I consulted medical people about the actual physical condition of the body and what that would do to his psyche. When I played... what's-his-name in Winter's Tale? Leontes. Winter's Tale. The crazy king at the beginning. I went to a psychiatrist and said, 'What are these symptoms? And he said, 'It's absolutely, it's schizophrenia, it's a classic case of schizophrenia. And these are all the symptoms that are there in the text.'

So that's fascinating, to do that research. But as I said earlier, what I like about Shakespeare more than most other writers is that he's not judgemental

and doesn't say, 'This is a good character, that's a bad character.' They're all flawed, every villain has a saving grace, every hero has a flaw. And so in terms of how to live, I guess those big questions are thrown up all the time about are people doing the right thing or the wrong thing where do they go wrong? There's compassion for every character but no sentiment, there's no kind of mushy sentiment. Everyone is judged pretty... with an eye of some sort of scepticism. No-one's allowed off the hook. Right. And as a director, you mention that many Shakespeare productions are distorted because directors fail to give characters their due, as you were saying. Macbeth, for instance, doesn't see himself as a bloody murderer but 'a courageous bear fighting ravening wolves'. That's your words. So, your secret as a director is to accept the fact that all the characters see themselves as valid and legitimate characters. Yes, they do. You don't see yourself as a villain, no matter how... no matter what you're up to. You think 'I'm doing this for a good reason.' Or you convince yourself of that. And I think you've got to find that humanity, I think if a production gets too tricksy or too concept-driven by a director and loses the humanity then it's not taking you anywhere. Every character has a humanity and there's a compassion and a striving to achieve something and that's what the actor has to look for in each character. And make sure it is well-balanced.

If you're playing Brutus, for instance, you might fall into the trap of being too noble and too idealistic and you think, 'hang on, where is the self-interest in this guy?' And look at the mistakes he makes by being too arrogant and too self-assured. Look at Cassius, he thinks he's doing the right thing, but you look at, again, the envy of Caesar that underlies his actions. The characters are very, very... craftily drawn. Their weaknesses are suggested, as well as their strengths. How far can we push compassion for characters that, to the outside, seem pure evil? I mean, Hitler probably saw himself as taking the German people to a glorious future, that he was absolutely right in what he was doing. Is there a time, as an actor, where you say,

'I don't believe that Richard III is a nice guy?' No, he's not a nice guy at all, nor is Iago in Othello. But they are - I guess what saves them - and Richard III is a rather - it's an early Shakespeare play, so it's a little more crudely drawn than, say, Macbeth which is another kind of investigation of that criminal mind. Macbeth is tortured with guilt. He does terrible things but he's absolutely tortured and he's trying to toughen himself against feeling any pity or compassion.

He's trying to harden himself. Lady Macbeth, she's very gung-ho at the beginning, 'it'll all be easy, wash our hands, it's all be over'. She goes demented through guilt. So, whatever they're trying to be, their conscience does give them away in the end.

And Iago, people say is the most black of all Shakespeare's villains, even he is living in a torment of jealousy and vengefulness. It's not much fun being Iago. No. Is Richard III a great role because, in one way, he never feels guilty? Or does he? Is there a moment where he feels tortured? Yeah, he does have a big nightmare at the end of the play where all these ghosts come back to haunt him and he wakes up in a cold sweat, screaming 'bring me a horse' and all this sort of stuff. So even he goes through that passage of terror at the things he's done. Mm. You say in the book at putting on a Shakespearean play in period is often lazy and unproductive. Could you talk about this? Well, it's this most obvious choice to say, 'let's do it in its period', we'll just look up the costumes of 1610 and dress them all in that period and that'll be authentic. Well, it might be authentic in a sort of museumy sense but it doesn't get to what's the play about. If you're doing, say, Julius Caesar, well, what is the situation today? Where do we find that kind of backstabbing and politicking and betrayal and treachery. (Audience chuckles) Well, I don't know. Where would you start looking? You could do it in the White House, you could do it in The Lodge, you could do it in Downing Street, there's all sorts of parallels for these situations. And you just choose the most interesting one and the most timely one. I'd love right now to be doing Timon of Athens because it's about the collapse of the finances in Greece. I mean, you know, how topical can you get?

I think if find... if you do it with a good reason and conscientiously and find the right parallel, you don't have to reproduce that in all its detail, but you suggest to the audience, 'see, it's just like now,

it's a world very like ours.' people say, 'it's very pretty, it's very decorative, very classical, but, you know, it's not us.' Shakespeare wrote his plays to get to people, to make them feel something, to awake their horror or their compassion, or their understanding of the world they lived in and it's our responsibility to do the same, to make the audience feel those same things, whatever that takes. Now, you the actor. You've spent most of your life acting the great Shakespearean characters. What attributes are needed by a top actor and what techniques must you master to sustain a really large role. Stamina is a big one. Just to be able to do a play like King Lear or Hamlet eight times a week, that takes something out of you. I think, um,

the main thing is you've got to somehow find a way to interest an audience, to capture their imagination, to present them something they think is authentic and believable and not to be self-indulgent about how you're doing it, to be always aware of who you're talking to and what you're after.

They're the basic things of any acting, I think. But early in your career, before you had any formal training, you said that Laurence Olivier was such a role model for you that your early roles, you wanted to be him. Yes. And exhausted your vocal cords doing so. Yeah.

So it took techniques, didn't it, to finally master the vocal... Yes, it does, as with opera singing or any of those sort of stretching demands, you need basic training in just the basic technique of doing it and then the experience of playing it in larger and larger spaces

to bigger audiences and how to save yourself and ration yourself

so you can be as good on Saturday night as you were on Monday night. That just takes, as I say, discipline and practice

but that all can be achieved. Funny thing in the book - William Gaskill had a unique technique for making sure the actors spoke with clarity. Could you tell us a bit about that? Yes, Bill Gaskill was a pretty demanding director - an English director and he came out here to direct Love's Labours Lost for the Old Tote Theatre in Sydney and we were both in it along with - Jacki Weaver was in it and lots of good people. And we had to recite sonnets in the play, that's part of the action, and so we rehearsed in this great sort of concrete aircraft hangar in Alexandria in Sydney and Bill would sit at one end of the room and we'd stand down the other and we'd have to sort of project, almost shout this sonnet across the space

and he'd say, 'I didn't understand that, do it again.' So you'd do it again and he'd say, 'no, didn't understand that, do it again.' And he kept that up until you were nearly going demented trying to make it clear but that very effort of pushing and pushing

to make it clear from one end of the room to the other that made you realise just how difficult it was and what it took to get that clarity. 'Now sit down and write a sonnet, And then he'd sit down and say,

see how hard that is.' of course. And that was even more difficult, It's a very difficult thing to do but once you've done it to write a sonnet, and you realise how hard it is an audience, and then make it clear to was rather necessary. that kind of didactic direction for me as a playwright, One very insightful thing, is that too often that you say about characterisation for consistency in a character actors and directors look no consistency whatsoever in Hamlet and you point out there's and that there isn't in most of us. You just have to play him - moment to moment. to get him, you have to play him a general wash of a character Yes, there can be a tendency to do is this sort of person. and say the character as 'this' sort of person. Well, there's no such thing And I suppose, until Shakespeare, like Ben Johnson for instance, earlier playwrights your sanguine man, you had your choleric man, your phlegmatic man, your melancholy man, and chemical humours. according to certain archetypes your villain, your young hero, And they were the types - your sort of rustic shepherd and they were very consistent types. and they were just types who said And I think it was Harold Bloom the idea of personality. that Shakespeare invented of all sorts of inconsistencies That we're not types, we're all a mix a personality. and it's those that make up is the first modern man, And I suppose Hamlet, in that sense, inconsistency - in that he is riddled with he can be cruel, kind, savage,

despairing, happy, flippant, all of these things. noble, dirty-minded, 'that's what Hamlet's like', And you can't have one - he's like all of those people to the other and he will veer from one

that he's in. according to the situation And that makes him unpredictable, what he's going to do next. so you don't know And that makes theatre exciting. If a character is predictable what they're going to do in Act 3, and you know exactly

then you might as well go home now.

in people To find those inconsistencies that makes it life-like. and the unexpected things they do and actor John Bell in conversation That was playwright David Williamson at the Noosa Long Weekend Festival. on the optimism bias. Next up, neuroscientist Tali Sharot on how emotion, motivation Her scholarly research focuses expectations, decisions and memories. and social factors, influence our what makes us happy, Why are we so terrible at predicting in the face of threats? how do we maintain stalwart optimism outlook on life? Do we have an irrationally optimistic to our existence? Maybe this is just crucial and research in cognitive science Tali Sharot's experiments

the biological basis of optimism. have shed new light on

in London. She's speaking here at the RSA and sometimes we get it wrong, Sometimes we get it right systematic rule to our mistake. but we think that there's no in behavioural economics, Decades of research suggest otherwise. in social psychology an optimism bias. It suggests that we have the future to be better And by that, I mean that we expect than the past and the present.

better than it ends up being. We expect the future to be slightly 76% of the population said In a recent survey, the future of their own families, that they were optimistic about about the future of other families. but only 30% were optimistic And this is really an important point about ourselves, because we're optimistic we're optimistic about our families, we're optimistic about our kids, about the guy sitting next to us. but we're not so optimistic about where the country is going And we're somewhat pessimistic of our fellow citizens. and about the future are better than our fellow citizens. In fact, we tend to think that we the superiority illusion, This is called and it was observed as far back of the French Renaissance writer, as the writings Michel de Montaigne. 'I consider myself an average man, Where he said I consider myself an average man'. except that for the fact that consider ourselves above average, And he was right, because we do be better, will be above average. and we think that our future will a universal phenomenon. And this is quite carried out in the US. My first study on optimism was indeed in the past five years But since then all of my studies out here in the UK, were either carried or the Middle East where I'm from. other places in Europe we find an optimism bias. In all of these places,

an American or a British person, There's no difference in the bias of the difference is in our culture. of many, many, many other people, But my studies, as well as studies

show that optimism crosses borders. it crosses age. It crosses race, it crosses gender, when they think about the future, Young kids are optimistic that as we grow older, and you'd think we'll become more realistic. we gain experience and therefore But the data shows, if anything, than younger adults. older adults are more optimistic that other animals There is some studies showing

as well. seem to have an optimism bias they hear a short auditory tone, And scientists taught birds that when they should press a blue lever. an immediate food reward. And if they do that, they get

with their food rewards, So, the animals are quite happy and this is a positive outcome. when they hear a long auditory tone, And then they taught them they should press a red lever, get a reward, but only after a delay. and if they do that then they will Now, the birds had to get it right, they would get nothing at all. because if they didn't get it right, happen when they hear a medium tone, Now the question was, what will a six second tone. Will they press the blue lever,

a positive outcome suggesting that they expect or will they press the red lever, a negative outcome. on pressing the blue lever. And most of the birds insisted to get the immediate reward. Suggested that they expected seconds and eight seconds, And even if you went up to seven continued pressing the blue lever. still a large proportion of the birds So this suggests that some sort of an optimism bias may exist in other animals, even in birds, which diverged from the evolutionary branch of humans very, very early on. But not all humans are optimistic or have an optimism bias. Studies show again and again that about 80% of the population have an optimism bias. So what's going on with the remaining 20%? Well, it seems that a large proportion of that 20% tend to be individuals suffering from depression. There's a tight correlation between depression symptoms and pessimism. This is a study that was conducted by Strunk et al. And what he shows here is a correlation

between the optimism bias on your Y axis, so how much you expect things to be better than they end up being, by recording expectations and then outcomes. And depression symptoms on the X axis. And here on the very left you have the healthy individuals, and they have a slight optimism bias. The people who don't have any bias at all, tend to be the mildly depressed. So people with mild depression are a bit more realistic in their expectations than healthy individuals. And people who have severe depression on the very right over there, tend to have a pessimistic bias. So they expect the future to be slightly worse than it ends up being.

So, most of us healthy individuals do have this optimism bias, but we're not aware of it. Because the optimism bias is an illusion. It's a game that our brain plays on us, and it's only one of the many games that the brain plays on us. And I'm going to give you an example from the visual domain, just to show you how we can be easily tricked. So, look at the photo here. And tell me what you see. Let's test this perception. Looks quite different, doesn't it? So, upright it's quite clear that this is a grotesque image and it's not quite right. The way that you make this illusion is you invert the eyes and the mouth while keeping the face the same. Now, this way we can see exactly what's going on, because our brain is very good at perceiving upright faces. We do it all the time, we have upright faces next to us everywhere. But we're not used to perceiving upside down faces,

our brain is not very good at that, and that's why we are deceived.

And even though I show you the illusion unfold, you're going to be deceived every single time. The same with the optimism bias. We think that we see the future in a realistic manner, but we're actually deceived. How do we maintain optimism in the face of reality? This was a great puzzle to us, because according to every psychological theory and theories in neuroscience, the assumption was that when the world doesn't fit our expectations,

we alter them. Meaning we alter our expectations, not the world. If that is so, over time we should become realistic, and not maintain this bias. But that wasn't the case. We conducted an experiment where we had people come into our lab, and we asked them to estimate how likely it was that they would encounter negative events, such as for example,

how likely are you to suffer from Alzheimers? How likely are you to get divorced? How likely are you to suffer from cancer? And then we gave them information about the likelihood of these events happening to someone like them, the same age, living in the same place. And then we asked them again. What we wanted to know is whether people will take the information that we gave them in order to change their estimate, to change their beliefs. And indeed they did - but only when the information that we gave them was better than expected. If someone said 'My likelihood to suffer from cancer is 50%', average likelihood is much better, and we told them, you know the it's only 30%. they would say Well then, the next time around, you're right.' 'Well yeah, maybe it's only 35%, likelihood for suffering from cancer But if someone started off saying my is 10%, and we said much worse, it's about 30%' 'You know,the average likelihood is 'Still think it's about 11%'. The next time around they would say Now, it's not that they didn't learn. They did learn, when the information was bad news, but they learnt much less

was good news. versus when the information was good news, they said Because when the information related to me.' 'Well, that's very much was bad news, they said But when the information I eat healthily, I exercise, 'No, that's not about me,

it's other people's risk.' So, how can that be? something that scientists call Well, it turns out it's related to prediction errors. between what you expect Prediction errors are the difference and what transpires. imagine you're in a restaurant So, let's say, and you're about to order dessert. and you imagine you're going to get You order a chocolate cake something like that.

waiter comes and he gives you this. That's what you expect, but then the you predicted and what you got Now, the difference between what is called the prediction error. of prediction errors all the time. And our brain takes note computes these errors all the time We're not aware of it, but it from the environment. and it uses those to learn at predicting And to try and assess how good it is what will happen in the future. desserts, we gave them information. Now we didn't give our subjects the brain was coding And what we wanted to know whether between their expectations for the difference that we gave them. and the information And what we found was, the left inferior frontal gyrus, that part of the brain called relative to what they expected. was coding for how good the news was, whether you were an extreme optimist, And it was doing so perfectly well, a mild optimist or a pessimist.

Everyone was coding good information. On the other side of the brain, was coding for bad news. the right inferior frontal gyrus How worse was the information were expecting? relative to what people And it wasn't doing a very good job. And the more optimistic someone was,

of the brain was to code bad news. the less likely this part between the extreme optimist, And that's what was different and the mildly pessimist. the mild optimist for this unexpected bad news, Because if you're not coding you don't learn from it, with those rose tinted glasses. and therefore you remain if we can interfere with the activity So, now we said let's try and see make people more optimistic of these brain regions in order to or less optimistic. magnetic stimulation It's called transcranial Ryoto Kanai and this is my collaborator, at the University College of London. transmitting a small magnetic pulse And what he's doing is he's into his left inferior frontal gyrus. through the scalp of this individual, he's interfering with the activity And by doing that, for about half an hour. of that brain region goes back to normal. After that everything their optimism bias grew. We found that than what we find normally. It became even larger with part of the brain And what happened when we interfered that codes for good news? disappeared. In that case the optimism bias slightly pessimistic. In fact it became looked a little like data In fact, the data of these people from the clinically depressed. individuals in our lab We had clinically depressed

learn from good news and bad news and we found that their ability to

was the same, there was no bias. would we want to do this? So here's a question: rose tinted glasses? Would we want to take off people's Well, some people say yes. happiness is low expectations. Some people say the secret to if you don't expect success, If you don't expect greatness, if you don't expect love, disappointed when you don't get it. well, you're not going to be surprised when things go right. And you're going to be slightly for example, Two psychologist Marshall and Brown, do you think you're going to get asked their students what grade in the mid term exam? going to get really good grades So some people thought they were they were going to fail. and some people thought thought they were going to do poorly, And it turned out that the people who getting an A, when they actually ended up the people who expected greatness. they didn't feel better than they didn't feel less bad, And when they failed, who expected to do well. or less sad than the people In fact, whatever the outcome was, felt worse. people with low expectations

about how we interpret the outcome. Why is that? Well, it turns out it's when they did well, The people who expected to do well, they thought 'I'm a genius'. again and again and again. And therefore I'm going to do well

to their own ability. They attributed the outcome had less of a tendency to think The people with low expectations for which they got an A. that it was their own ability reality will catch up with me And therefore they thought next time

and I won't do as well. with high expectations went, And when they failed people the exam wasn't fair' 'It's not about me, time I will and then I'll do better.' or 'I didn't study enough but next with low expectations While the people about their own ability tended to see it more to fail and fail again. and therefore expected doesn't make you happy, So lowering your expectations make you happy in fact having high expectations at least at the time of anticipation. are going to be good, Because if you think things well you're happy at that moment.

brings us so much joy, The anticipation of a good thing to pay for it. that we're actually willing by behavioral economist This is something that was shown George Lowenstein in the US. He asked people, a kiss from a celebrity. 'Imagine that you're going to get to pay to get a kiss How much are you willing if this kiss was given immediately, in an hour, in one day, in three days, in a year or in ten years?' And what he found was that people were willing to pay the most if they got the kiss in three days. They were willing to wait three days in order to get the kiss. Why is that? Well, if you get the kiss immediately it's over and done with, but if you have three days to think about it, get excited, feel all gittery in your stomach, people are willing to pay for that. Now they're not willing to wait a year or ten years. I mean, God knows what will happen to the celebrity then, but a little bit of waiting time is something that they all wanted. Now, George said, how much are you willing to pay to avoid a very, very large electric shock?

People were willing to pay the most to avoid an electric shock in ten years. The knowledge that something bad is going to happen makes you feel really bad and people wanted to avoid this negative feeling of dread and they were willing to pay for it. Now, optimists are people who expect more kisses in their future and less shocks. So optimism changes subjective reality but it also changes objective reality.

Optimism has been related to achievement in sports, in academia, in politics and maybe the biggest benefit of optimism is to our physical health. It's been shown again and again that optimism is related to longer life,

healthier life and shorter recovery time. Two reasons for that.

One is that if you have positive expectations of the future stress and anxiety is reduced and that is obviously good for our physical health. The second reason is that if you expect to be healthy and you expect to recover you're more likely to take the actions needed. And it's also good for our personal life. So although optimists are not less likely to divorce, they're more likely to remarry. In the words of Samuel Johnson - remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience. But there are of course dangers to optimism, so if you underestimate your risks you're less likely to take the actions needed to protect yourself. You might not go to medical screenings because you think you're gonna be OK or not buy insurance.

Now, on balance the data shows that the positive aspects outweigh the negative, but sometimes the balance tips the other way. And I think if we're aware of the optimism bias - the good news - it's not gonna shatter. It's a bit like the visual illusion where you understood what was going on, you're still tricked. So understanding and knowing about the optimism bias still doesn't mean that we will take our rose coloured glasses off. But it does mean that then we can take actions to protect ourself. We can go to medical screenings, even though we think we're gonna be OK.

Or put an umbrella in our bag even if we think it's not gonna rain. Some of the experiments you mentioned are kind of belief independent. Certainly lots of perceptual illusions - that you use it as an analogy. It doesn't really matter what you think is there you still see something else. Is there something different about the nature of optimism that means that knowing about it will stop you being optimistic. It's not just knowing about it, it's knowing about it and then taking actions. So actions can be in the level of government, in the level of companies and in the individual level as well. Just to give you a very simple example - vertigo. So pilots sometimes think that they're going down when they're actually going up. And they still feel like that, but they learn to take note of the instruments, which tell them what is actually happening, but if there's guards there so they're fooled, the correct action. they can actually take the part of the brain A couple of times you refer to

that codes for negative information that codes for positive or the part of the brain and the book is full of references of the brain to various different parts they play, and the principal function

far too strong a reduction. but often that felt to be like to tell the story Is that a sort of necessary single parts of the brain or do you really think that as pessimism or optimism? do something as complex

part of the brain that does anything No. So absolutely there's no one and in any verbal conversation and both in the book I make sure not to say that. is a part of the brain So, for example, what I showed here positive information. that we found to code for No. That's not all it does.. And it's not the only one. I've shown one area So for example - we found one, that codes for positive information in the task that we did. and we found three others that part, We don't suggest in any way that positive information it's function is to code for that I mentioned. and neither do any of the parts So it's not, you know... different things Every part of the brian does a lot of

parts of the brain all the time. and it interacts with many other Everything is a system. No region works on its own. on the optimism bias, That was neuroscientist Tali Sharot that keeps us alive. the irrational outlook

And last up in Short Cuts, Professor of Economics Paul Seabright, at the Toulouse School of Economics. as the war of the sexes. He's pitched this talk Seabright draws on biology,

and economics sociology, anthropology between the sexes to show that the conflict of cooperation. is paradoxically the product In early societies, of power in favour of men economic conditions moved the balance for use in sexual bargaining. as they cornered scarce resources beyond recognition These conditions have swung but inequalities persist we inherited from our ancestors as the brains, talent and preferences the 21st century information age. struggle to deal with men and women cooperate Biology has shaped the way and has done so since pre-history and the lesson of how it has done so for understanding the way is still important men and women cooperate today that women have paid a price but in particular I focus on the fact for the way in which we cooperate understand better and it's a price that we can if we dig sufficiently hard of our evolutionary past. into the roots and important lesson I think that the first

of cooperation - is that conflict is at the heart

two sides of the same coin. conflict and cooperation are to cooperate about, It's when you have a lot from cooperation, when you have potentially large gains to be in conflict that there is so much temptation you do that. about the terms under which It's precisely because from cooperation when parties have a lot to share should be shared that the question how those gains becomes so urgent and so difficult. studying economics looks at The central idea that anybody is scarcity. are differently scarce Different resources reflects their scarcity. and the value of those resources about sexual reproduction The really striking thing of the gametes, the sex cells, is the different scarcity that the two sexes bring. that has female and males, Eggs in any species which not all species do, are scarce - they're larger than the male gametes, some nutritional resources they typically come with and there are not very many of them. produce an egg So women, female human beings at the rate of one a month. Males produce 1,000 sperm a second. to fertilisation Now it's because the obstacles are not merely logistical, of the male and the female interests they're about the negotiation in reaching fertilisation and difficult questions that the most interesting about sexual reproduction arise. And notably what has happened has selected is that natural selection and persistence in males. for selectivity in females Why selectivity? the scarce resource Because females who have on unsuitable males don't wish to waste it in excess and males who find themselves

of available female gametes compared to the limited number of strategies, will then undertake all sorts some very manipulative, some very seductive, some very persuasive, some very violent, are selected to ensure that their gametes all the competing ones. over and above

has tended to take The male persistence one of two broad types. Charles Darwin wrote about This was something that The Descent of Man in his great book in which male persistence and he was fascinated by the way through force, through violence, sometimes expresses itself rival males either through fighting between by males or force exerted on females through signalling, and sometimes it's expressed itself to try to induce females through competitive signalling of the male signallers. to cede to the charms males and females occurs Conflict between where and how to mate. even over something as simple as opportunities which are scarce, Females, after all, have mating which should not be wasted, and for males, are potentially not so scarce those mating opportunities and a male that mates in one context relatively soon afterwards, is still able to mate involves a major commitment unlike a female for whom mating of her body, of her resources.

of a water strider. Here are the antennae antennae on the left Now the relatively delicate belong to the female. The antennae on the right involve some grappling hooks that appear to have evolved for the sole purpose of holding down recalcitrant females so these are adaptive pieces of anatomy that unfortunately appear to have no other purpose and what they illustrate is a point that is worth coming back to again and again which is that natural selection never selects for optimal or adaptable relationships. Natural selection selects for particular traits which may be adaptive

in the sense that they get themselves copied. But it's quite possible for the traits in the female

and the traits in the male to get themselves copied and the result to be messy, violent, inefficient, wasteful. Now you might think that against that signalling behaviour is likely to be a rather pleasant sort of thing and indeed a rather efficient sort of thing but though omnipresent, though essential, it's hugely wasteful so the poster child for the wastefulness of signalling is the peacock. It's hard to imagine an appendage that could be more unlikely to help the bird to hide from predators, to escape predators, in general to survive and leave its offspring but it grows it because the female has learnt to prefer it and females prefer large tails not for arbitrary reasons but because these are known to be correlated with other indicators of fitness in the male.

Now one of the things you notice is that precisely because of the asymmetry that I described in terms of the scarcity of the gametes this means that the signalling tends to be done by the sex with the abundant gamete so it's the males here who are signalling. This primate has the unusual feature that all of those individuals that you see there in the front row that look like males are actually females. And what it illustrates is something about what homo sapiens has done - the signalling is being done by both sexes, they're signalling to each other so there's bilateral signalling in homo sapiens which is a little different from many other species. The female are not having to cope with any problem

of the available quantity of males but a good man is notoriously hard to find

and it could be that there's something about male quality that is scarce. Some species, like our own, have developed elaborate forms of signalling that are bilateral. Signalling to other people, not only members of the other sex but also to our colleagues, our employers, and so on is a very big part of the story about both what makes us human more generally and what holds us back sometimes from realising the possibilities that our cooperative natures make available to us. Now the difference between us and most of the other animals really resides in the very large-scale cooperation that we have undertaken, we in particular. We invested in something that doesn't exist on the same scale anywhere else in the animal kingdom which is the long childhood. Our offspring are dependent on us for much, much longer than those of any other animal and they require massively greater investment. And in particular they require investment

that mothers cannot make on their own. The kind of alliances that a mother needs to construct to look after her children don't just involve the biological father of the child,

though they may do, but involve a whole coalition of other parties, of the child, including the grandparents in a group. including other males, other females in forager societies for women And essentially life that were necessary was about building the alliances a chance to survive. to give your children millions of years - Millennia - actually more than that, of a division of labour that persisted throughout pre-history in a matter of a few decades has essentially been abolished extraordinary tide of female talent by an unprecedented and of economic life that has swept into large areas only by men. that were previously occupied has been spectacular. What has happened since World War Two in the labour force Women's participation to just under 60% has risen from just under 30% and in fact if you include women under the age of five who do not have children in the United States at least, their participation, is as high as that of men. a small majority of jobs In particular women now occupy Statistics calls that the US Bureau of Labor managerial and professional jobs. though in some sense So by that criterion it looks as of previously male work all of the important general areas have now been opened to women. extraordinary development And it's in the light of that development and extraordinarily rapid seem even harder to understand. that the remaining puzzles some occupations One is the fact that participation of women. continue to have very low like the fact So if we start with things 32% of lawyers, that women only make up only 32% of physicians and surgeons, 25% of architects, you can then construct a list statistics going down to some truly remarkable only 1.2% of airline pilots. such as that women make up Even within occupations, economic life in those areas of modern is concentrated where real economic power

women are startlingly scarce. So among the Fortune 500 companies in the US economy, that are the most important less than 16% of board members officers are women. and only 2.4% of chief executive in those kinds of outcomes So whatever process has resulted

the large amount of female talent you can start to imagine somehow overlooked or left out. that must have been impressive nature And it's because of the truly and of the general change, of the previous change, that remaining asymmetry, that I think is so puzzling. that remaining discrepancy, There are psychologists talent or IQ or ability who'll tell you, 'I'll define as, you know, the mean of performance on test X and test Y and test Z. What is very rarely offered

is any reason why the mean of test X, Y and Z should be the right measure. And without a theory of how to weight performances on these different skills together,

I think we are a very, very long way away from any possible conclusion that there are systematic overall gender differences in talent. Now, if it's not talent, is it preferences? There are really three dimensions

on which there are systematic differences in women's preferences from those of men, partly for competitiveness and risk-taking, partly in terms of preferences for negotiating style, and then there are fairly clearly documented differences in preferences for flexibility in working lives, with women being systematically more likely to prefer flexible hours, to take breaks early in their careers, and so on. Before you think that these differences in preferences are the answer, the puzzle is why the price paid for those differences in preferences is so high. In particular, it's not surprising, you might think, that a woman who maybe takes five years out of her career to raise children, might be less able to earn as much as her peers when she returns to work, say, in her mid-30s. What's truly startling is that in her mid-50s she's still paying a price for it. And it's very hard to think of a reason why those things that have happened in the early- to mid-20s

should still be casting a shadow as large as it is, so many years later. So, what is it about those differences in preferences that involves them in such a high price?

And the missing element, I want to suggest, is those coalitions and networks that I signalled the importance to you of earlier. Women's networks seem to be more stable, more loyal,

more based on trust, more based on dependability. And you can see reasons why, in prehistory, that was important. If your coalitions were the thing on which your child's life depended, then you would be very, very careful about spending your time with people whom you couldn't trust, with whom your links were purely superficial. No, so, stable, loyal coalitions sound like a good thing and they were very important in pre-history but in the vast, impersonal world of the modern corporation, they don't do enough to get you noticed. And the corporate world is full of many talented women who in some sense are flying beneath the radar of the still-largely male recruiters to the top positions. Whether that's because of the way the women fly of whether it's because of the way the radar is calibrated is a whole new discussion again. And I think the evidence suggests that it's a bit of both. But what it does imply is that there are opportunities for recruiting talented women

that the recruiters to the modern business world Those opportunities are lying outside

the boundaries of their still rather narrow field of vision. Think back to the world of the forager society, in which men and women would be signalling to each other not only about potential mating opportunities in the future but about the way they behaved with respect to the hunt, with respect to gathering, with respect to the raising of their children. Women would be signalling characteristics like conscientiousness, which we know, from labour market data today, is enormously valued by modern employers. And they would be doing so, in forager societies,

in a way that everybody could see them. Today's economy has separated the workplace from domestic life, so, women who take some time to move from the workplace to domestic life then spend several years, the most important years of their lives, in which they do some of the most valuable things that they're available to do, signalling qualities which, did they but know it, their future employers would value. But the future employers are not around to observe those qualities. So, in some sense, what seems to be at work here is a problem of failed signalling in the modern workplace, which is costly to women's professional opportunities, but is actually costly to men too. If you think about the kind of signalling that men undertake when they work long hours in the office to convince a potential employer, or an actual employer, how committed they are to the employer's interests and needs, then you must think to yourselves that in the world made possible by modern tele-working, it should be possible to signal that degree of commitment in an easier way. So men who spend excessively long hours in the office to signal their commitment are just like those peacocks, they're using a wasteful mechanism, which is still adapted for the individual, but if a better way could be found to signal those qualities, it would be better for all concerned. That was Paul Seabright, Professor of Economics at the RSA in London. And you can find all these talks on our website, and a whole range of RSA talks along with some of the great RSA animations. That's all for this edition of Short Cuts. I'm Waleed Aly, see you next time. Closed Captions by CSI

This Program Is Captioned Live.

Enormous pay rises,

questionable credit card

purchases and cronyism. A

damning report into a troubled

union. It's clear that there

have been real problems at the

Health Services Union. Daze

are dazed and confused. The

alleged Aurora gunman makes a bizarre first court

appearance. If the death

penalty is sought, that's a

very long process. Final

training for the games, but

there's another race issue

that's running. There has been

discrimination and it should be

looked into seriously because

we can't have that. What's the

matter with kids these days?

Well, they can't run, can't