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13 Examples of Wishful Thinking

Wishful thinking is the formation of opinions, decisions and strategy based on motivation and desires as opposed to realities. This is less than logical but may have a useful function in certain situations. The following are illustrative examples of wishful thinking.


Optimism is a focus on the good in things and the potential of the future. This isn't necessarily wishful thinking but the line between the two is blurry.


Idealism is the belief that ideas create reality and not the other way around. This has instances where it is true as ideas from fiction are often an inspiration for invention and change. However, it is certainly wishful thinking to believe that you can change hard realities with the whims of you mind.


Relativism is the assertion that there are no universal truths, only subjective experience. This is the basis for a broad academic trend known as postmodernism. Relativism is based on the fallacy "it is a universal truth that there are no universal truths." In practice, relativism is often used to push ideologies by tearing down existing systems.

Delusional Positivity

Positivity is the application of optimism to thoughts, emotions and behavior. Where this is based on appreciation of reality, it is a reasonable approach to life that tends to make people likable. However, positivity can also be based on delusion and denial of realities whereby an individual imagines they have wonderful traits that don't reflect their actual capabilities. This would tend to backfire in the real world.

Motivated Reasoning

Motivated reasoning is cherry picking that is used to make the decisions you want to make as opposed to those supported by evidence. For example, cherry picking reasons that you should quit school and travel while ignoring any inconvenient truths.


Suppressing and avoiding inconvenient realities to escape to convenience, comfort and self-indulgence.

Peter Pan Syndrome

Denial of one's age whereby an individual continues to play the role of a child despite being mentally capable of adulthood. This involves a failure to thrive and shouldn't be confused with positive types of youthfulness in adults such as the continued ability to play and see the world in an innocent light.

Magical Thinking

Logic that includes magical steps that you can't explain. For example, a company executive that states that artificial intelligence will achieve specific business results without being able to explain why. It is common for humans to treat technology as magic.


Reactionism is an ideology that seeks to role back change to go back to some idealized past. It could be argued that change is difficult to rollback such that this is wishful thinking.

Just-world Hypothesis

The belief that the universe automatically implements your moral values such that all "bad" is eventually punished and all "good" is eventually rewarded. This is based on the idea that human values are reflected in some sort of fundamental law of the universe. This isn't a fallacy but rather a deep philosophical question. Some might argue that the universe appears to have its own ways that frequently conflict with our sense of justice.


The imagination is often driven by wishful thinking whereby we imagine wonderful things that are difficult to achieve in reality. This may be a potent tool for relaxation, creativity and cultivation of the self.

Pollyanna Principle

The human ability to forget negativity and remember the positive. For example, if a public speaker expresses gratitude for something this may garner attention and memory as opposed to a public speaker who complains about something.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Wishful thinking isn't necessarily negative where it is controlled and directed such that it doesn't go too far by neglecting important realities. Humans have the ability to change towards their brightest visions of themselves such that cultivating positive ideas has an important role in progress.
Overview: Wishful Thinking
The formation of opinions, decisions and strategy based on motivation and desires as opposed to realities.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about optimism.
Life Is Fair
Negativity Bias
Optimism Bias
Optimistic Drift
Personal Values
Risk Taking
Social Status
Status Quo
Wishful Thinking
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