Optimism and Pessimism in Social Context: An Interpersonal Perspective on Resilience and Risk
Related: Quiz: Are You a Pessimist, Optimist or Realist? Opposites may attract, but that doesn't mean the relationship is always easy, helps you: He advised you against trusting a corrupt business partner, for example. Also, men's optimism, but not women's, predicted relationship For example, warm and trusting individuals generally evoke greater social. There are optimists and pessimists, and some are a combination of the two. childhoods were less inclined to trust people and circumstances.
But there is also more to the story of personal optimism than that. The optimism bias When asked, newlyweds tend to say there is zero chance they will get divorced—despite the fact that the odds are There are two reasons for this. Our relative value increases as we think of others doing worse. As the health and personal finance studies reveal a connection between an internal locus of control and improved health and wellbeing, our optimism bias also brings clear benefits.
This provides some clear-cut benefits: Where optimism meets pessimism But as advantageous, perhaps even essential, as the optimism bias is, might excessive optimism also create problems—especially since we are largely unaware of our bias? The answer, of course, is yes.
Collectively, it can blind us to the potential for grand negative outcomes, such as the mortgage defaults that contributed to the recession. Excessive personal optimism can also seduce us into blithely imagining that our personal good fortune will be unaffected by collective problems such as unchecked income inequality and climate change—and, as a result, neither do anything about them, nor insist that our elected officials do something about them. So what is a sunny optimist to do about the sorry state of world?
And is there a sturdy, perhaps even an empowering, bridge between how we view our personal and collective lives? I have thought about these questions for nearly a decade. They hit home for me when I became a mother for the second time. If parenting my first child had been largely about learning how to parent—very much in the midst of one developmental rite of passage or another—parenting two children led me to think more about the future. But when scientists spoke about what might happen in or if we failed to collectively tackle climate change, I thought: And, with that, the false dichotomy between my personal world and our collective one collapsed; and I felt deeply moved to find some way to engage in this collective issue of our time.
If we could rise to the challenge of Hitler, the Cold War, and the Great Depression, surely we could rise to the challenges of our times.
One of the surprising things about the relationship between personal optimism and collective pessimism, Sharot has observed, is that we tend to become more optimistic about our collective future—not when things are going well but, rather in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.
We saw this dynamic at work after the economic crisis ofwhen Americans elected Barack Obama on a platform of hope.
Are You Optimistic or Pessimistic?
It is in those moments that we seem to grasp that for our own personal fates to improve, our collective ones must, as well. A study on pairs of identical twins conducted in sought to answer this question. Half of the twins were raised together while the other half were raised apart.
So like many other components of our psychology optimism is partly determined by genetics and partly determined by environment, social support as well as our learned behaviors. Martin Seligman a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania believed optimism like many other skills could be learned. To prove his point he taught students a number of optimism techniques and compared the mental health of these students to those without the skills.
Students who learned optimism techniques were far less likely to develop depression, anxiety and also enjoyed improved overall health. If you're interested in learning optimism you might want to read Seligman's book, "Learned Optimism" What is Optimism? Optimism is the overall view that the world is a great place and that things will turn out ok. The optimist believes for example that events will turn out for the best, or that people are trustworthy. Most people are generally optimistic about things that have turned out well for them in the past, or about things that have good associations for them.
People can also be optimistic about their internal lives and still pessimistic about external world events.
Pessimism is essentially the direct opposite of optimism in that it is the belief that the world is a bad place and that things will turn out for the worst. You may be pessimistic for example about the prospects of getting a new job, or about your partner forgiving you for an indiscretion. The interpersonal perspective contains two primary elements regarding interactional processes.Is This Glass Half Empty?
That is, warmth invites warmth in return, whereas cold or hostile actions invite hostility. Dominant or controlling behavior invites submissiveness or deference; submissive actions invite dominant or controlling responses.
Optimism for Me, Pessimism for We
However, research on complementarity suggests it is generally more apparent for affiliation than control Sadler et al. The processes underlying complementarity and social interactions generally are described in the transactional cycle. Aspects of an actor's internal experience e. This behavior restricts the experiences and reactions of interaction partners, as when they appraise the actor as rude or arrogant, leading that partner to behave in ways that are complementary to the actor's original negative expectations i.
These transactional processes can shape the quality of social interactions across a variety of contexts, including close relationships. Through these transactional processes, complementarity contributes to the aggregation of risk or resilience factors that are typically seen as characteristics of individuals e.
For example, warm and trusting individuals generally evoke greater social support from others and lower levels of interpersonal conflict. In contrast, antagonistic persons are likely to experience less support and more frequent, severe, and prolonged conflict with others. In this way, risk factors for poor health and reduced well-being that are traditionally seen as reflecting intrapersonal characteristics may be more accurately seen as involving interpersonal processes - recurring patterns of person-environment transaction.
First, we determine interpersonal styles associated with dispositional optimism. We also test the resulting predictions based on the complementarity principle regarding associations of dispositional optimism with risk and resilience factors typically seen as features of the social environment i.
Measurement modeling studies support this view e. A correlated, two-dimensional structure raises questions about the extent to which optimism confers resilience, pessimism confers risk, or both. Studies of health outcomes have reported differing effects of the two dimensions e. In the present studies, we examined the interpersonal correlates of bipolar optimism, unipolar optimism, and unipolar pessimism. Circumplex Descriptions, Social Support, and Negative Social Experiences The first step in this application of the interpersonal perspective is the identification of the interpersonal style associated with dispositional optimism.
The multiple R values ranged from. Bipolar optimism and unipolar optimism were associated with higher control and affiliation, indicating a warm and dominant interpersonal style; unipolar pessimism was associated with low control and low affiliation, indicating a hostile and submissive interpersonal style.
The aims of the present study were to replicate these IPC analyses of dispositional optimism across multiple samples, and to test related predictions based on the complementarity principle that bipolar and unipolar optimism would be associated with high levels of social support and low levels of aversive interpersonal experiences e.