IRB: Ethics & Human Research

The Optimistic Bias and Illusions of Control in Clinical Research

Recent discussions of the ethics of clinical research, and especially early phase cancer trials, have identified the optimistic bias, also known as “unrealistic optimism,” as a possible defect in the process of informed consent. The optimistic bias is abias that leads a person to think that she is more likely to experience positive outcomes or less likely to experience negative outcomes, than similar others. Past research has shown that the optimistic bias is distinct from the therapeutic misconception. However, to date, little is known about the factors that evoke the optimistic bias in the research context. This paperproposes that the optimistic bias among trial participants is generated by illusory perceptions of control. It discusses recent research on the link between this bias and perceived controllability, and it relates this research to underlying cognitive orientations associated with goal pursuit. By digging deeper into the causes of the optimistic bias in this context, the paper aims to help researchers come to a better understanding of its ethical significance for informed consent in early-phase cancer research.
Jansen LA. The optimistic bias and illusions of control in clinical research.IRB: Ethics & Human Research2016;38(2):8-14.