Optimism

Majority of notes I took from the fantastic Maltby, Day and Macaskill ‘Individual Differences’ textbook (click image).

 

INTRO

Maruta (2000) optimists live 19% longer than pessimists (sample: 1100; longitudinal study over 30yrs)

 

LEARNED OPTIMISM – EXPLANATORY STYLE – SELIGMAN (c1991)

Helplessness: when people can’t do do anything about what’s happening to them

Learned helplessness: person attributes failures to factors which are internal (to do with themselves), stable (always there) and global (every aspect of their life & all situations)

Explanatory style: how we explain problems to ourselves, then choose a positive/ negative way to solve it

 

LEARNED HELPLESSNESS VS LEARNED OPTIMISM

– explanatory style is the difference bet. optimists & pessimists

– personal, permanent & pervasive vs circumstantial (external), temporary (unstable) & specific

 

THE ABC FORMAT

Adversity & then our Beliefs about adversity, determine Consequences: B is key to optimism

 

DISTRACTION AND DISPUTATION

distraction: putting problems aside for a while to re-evaluate & take a fresh look later

disputation: after distraction, challenge your beliefs – why am I thinking this about the situation?

 


 

DISPOSITIONAL OPTIMISM – CARVER & SCHEIER (1981 on)

– this is a person’s general predisposition to be optimistic due to personality or genetics

– it’s expecting good things (not explaining them) vs learned optimism’s explaining future events

– these expectancies influence a person’s mood and are stable across time & situation

 

LIFE ORIENTATION TEST – CARVER & SCHEIER (1985)

– measures dispositional optimism; has 4 filler items; 3 pos worded & 3 neg worded items

– e.g. ‘I’m always optimistic about my future’ and ‘I hardly ever expect things to go my way’

 


 

OPTIMISM AND WELL-BEING

Optimism: generalised outcome expectancies

 

APPRAISALS (EVALUATING) AND COPING – LAZARUS & FOLKMAN (1984)

– we (i) decide if the stress is useful/harmful then (ii) decide how to deal with the stress based on that appraisal

 

PRIMARY APPRAISALS

– judgement about what the stressful situation holds in store: threat, loss or challenge

 

SECONDARY APPRAISALS/ COPING STRATEGIES

problem focused (engaged): directed at the stress, problem solving, take action, cost/benefit

emotion-focussed (disengaged): directed at decreasing emotional distress, avoid, minimise

 

BENEFITS OF OPTIMISM & WELL-BEING

Scheier & Carver (1985): optimism associated w. confidence; pessimism – doubt & hesitance

Scheier & Carver (1985): optimists use challenge appraisals over threat or loss

Scheier et al (1986): optimists – engaged coping strategies; pessimists disengaged

Chang (2002): when pessimists perceive stress >> greater psychological symptoms of stress

Schou et al (2005): optimists report higher quality of life than pessimists

Scheier et al (1994): optimists have an optimistic advantage in life due to appraisal & coping

 

OPTIMISM & DEPRESSION

Conley (2001): pessimists look on the downside; optimists: problems aren’t forever & change

Ziegler & Hawley (2001): optimists less discouraged by problems & vulnerable to depression

Scheier  et al (1985): higher dispositional optimism associated with lower levels of depression

 

OPTIMISM AND SELF-ESTEEM

Self esteem: how much a person likes, accepts & respects themselves overall as a person

Brissette, Scheier & Carver (1985): optimism & self-esteem are highly related

Leung et al (2005): optimism is still a good predictor of mental health when considered alongside self-esteem

Wanberg & Banas (2000): resilience (coping, reacting) underlies optimism & self-esteem

 

OPTIMISM & HEALTH

Scheier & Carver (1985): optimists develop fewer physical symptoms over time vs pessimists

Segerstrom et al (2003): optimism improves the immune system

Schroder et al (1998): optimism influences health through use of adaptive coping strategies

Ek et al (2005): optimism influences health through increased positive health habits

Carver el al (1994): optimism influences health through absence of negative mood

 

OPTIMISM: A CLOUD IN THE SILVER LINING – SELIGMAN (1991)

– optimism might reflect an innate human tendency to unrealistic

– in some situations the problem isn’t solvable (death), so emotion-focussed better than problem focussed (Peterson 2000)

– but Seligman says optimists should/can adjust as appropriate

– Seligman: if an action is risky optimism might make us ignore the negatives

– Seligman: for both counselling helpers & helpees optimism could cause masking of issues

 


 

SITUATIONAL OPTIMISM

situational optimism: expectations of good things happening for a particular situation

learned (little) optimism: how a person explains future good events

dispositional (big) optimism: general/ global biological expectation of good events

Segerstrom et al (1998): specific expectancies are more effective at dealing with events than dispositional beliefs

 


 

HOPE – SNYDER (2002)

– tried to integrate learned optimism & dispositional optimism in a theory of hope

Hope: our expectations that should/can be achieved. 3 components to the model

(1) goal: what we want to happen

(2) pathways: how do we reach the goal & how good are we at planning routes to the goal

(3) agency: how much motivation do we have to go after the goal

– high hope people have more goals, pathways and agency

 

BENEFITS OF HOPE

Snyder et al (2002): high-hope people have better academic performance

Curry et al (1999): high-hope people have better athletic performance

– high hope is related to optimism via agency, but optimists don’t have more pathways

Snyder (2002): hope related to mental & physical health, self-esteem, depression, recovery & prevention of illness

– it’s not known why people have high or low hope; whether it’s innate or learned

– Snyder (2002) believes strongly it’s learned and the 3 components can be worked on

 

MEASUREMENT OF HOPE

Lopez & Snyder (2003): 6 item scale measuring pathways & agency e.g. I energetically pursue my goals

 

A CONSIDERATION OF FALSE HOPE – POLIVY & HERMAN (2002)

False hope syndrome: one’s repeated effort but failure to change aspects of their behaviour

– they set unrealistic expectations (e.g. speed, ease, rewards of change or effort required

– unreaslistic make it hard going and they give up, shifting the blame & maybe start again

– if they have concrete realistic goals & hoped less they might have succeeded

– 3 forms of false hope: expectancies based on illusions, wrong goals, poor strategies

 

BUT:

Snyder & Rand (2003) – strongly criticised the model

  • there’s no empirical support for the model
  • there’s no clear definition of ‘false hope’ or even hope: it’s more than self change
  • Suggestion that people shouldn’t persue self-change goals is wrong: e.g. trying to give up smoking better than not trying
  • didn’t distinguish bet. high & low hope people: it’s low hope that don’t revise expectations not high-hope. Model doesn’t apply for high hope
  • high hope is a slight positive bias, not illusion
  • no research evidence that high hopers have innapropriate goals
  • High hopers don’t have poor strategies, they have more strategies

 


 

OPTIMISM VS POSITIVE THINKING

– Seligman says the denial of negative thoughts >> splitting of character or depression

– learned optimism is about reality, is empirically based & it reframes negative thoughts