Optimism, Pessimism, and Motivation: Relations to Adjustment

Social and Personality Psychology Compass 06/2009; 3(4):494 - 506. DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2009.00190.x

ABSTRACT The present work reviews the literature examining connections involving the key constructs of optimism and pessimism with motivation and adjustment. We review historical and conceptual models of optimism and pessimism. We then examine how these central constructs have been linked to both adaptive and maladaptive motivational processes and outcomes in the empirical literature. How cultural factors may impact the function of optimism and pessimism is also discussed. We end with a brief discussion of emerging issues that would be useful to examine in future research on optimism and pessimism.

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    • "Optimists are, for example, more likely than pessimists to continue gambling after having lost money, perhaps as a result of their tendency to perceive losses as " near wins " (Gibson and Sanbonmatsu, 2004). As described above, research describing the costs of unmitigated and unrealistic optimism has started to accumulate, suggesting that being optimistic beyond reason may lead to poor outcomes in various domains such as health and business (Chang et al., 2009). More research on the value and costs of unrealistic optimism is needed, as a few conflicting findings suggest that unrealistic optimism may sometimes be helpful, especially if it promotes increased persistence and efforts for ambitious goals (Zhang and Fishbach, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: During the past few decades, the psychological trait of optimism has garnered an increasing amount of interest from scientists, and numerous studies have now shown that optimism is associated with important benefits. The present review summarizes the main findings from this body of research. We begin by describing the two main ways in which researchers have defined and operationalized optimism, as "optimistic explanatory style" and as "dispositional optimism". Second, we provide an overview of the various studies documenting the benefits of optimism. Optimism indeed appears to be associated with higher levels of subjective well-being, better health, and more success. In addition, we describe some of the ongoing controversies in this area of research. Third, we summarize what researchers currently know about the causes of optimism, and how optimism can be fostered in adults as well as in youth. Finally, the present review highlights the adaptive nature of optimism, while recognizing that being optimistic under all circumstances may not always be best. Cultivating flexible and realistic optimism may therefore be most advantageous. We conclude by pointing out important areas of research for the future. These include continuing the search for the biological and brain substrates of optimism, and investigating the psychological and physiological benefits of adopting a flexible (as opposed to rigid) optimistic outlook on life. (C) 2012 Published by Elsevier Masson SAS on behalf of Societe franc aisede psychologie.
    Pratiques Psychologiques 06/2012; 18(2):107–120. DOI:10.1016/j.prps.2012.02.002 · 0.27 Impact Factor
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    Article: Optimism
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    ABSTRACT: The time will therefore come when the sun will shine only on free men who know no other master but their reason;… All the causes that contribute to the perfection of the human race, all the means that ensure it must by their very nature exercise a perpetual influence and always increase their sphere of action … the perfectibility of man is indefinite.
    Philosophy 09/1966; 41(158):291 - 303. DOI:10.1017/S0031819100058848
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    ABSTRACT: Previous research suggests that counterfactual thoughts in reaction to undesirable, academic performances can enhance subsequent performances by providing functional, behavioral prescriptions. However, on the basis of research distinguishing counterfactual content for the self and others, metacognitive findings suggesting that people are inaccurate in their self-appraisals, and the link between hindsight bias and counterfactual thinking, it was hypothesized that counterfactuals can inhibit improvements in academic performance by providing a false sense of competence. Study 1 showed that studying behavior and improvement on standardized exam items were inhibited by spontaneous counterfactual thought responses. Study 2 manipulated the salience of counterfactual thinking and showed that the negative relationship between counterfactual thought frequency and exam improvement was mediated by studying behavior. Furthermore, perceived skill mediated the link between counterfactual thinking and studying behavior. Implications of these results are discussed in light of functional and dysfunctional viewpoints of counterfactual thinking.
    Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 09/2012; 48(5):1117–1123. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.03.017 · 2.22 Impact Factor
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