What Are the Advantages and the Disadvantages of Using a Optimist Methodology
Optimism is an individual difference variable that reflects the extent to which people hold generalized favorable expectancies for their future. Higher levels of optimism have been related prospectively to better subjective well-being in times of adversity or difficulty (i.e., controlling for previous well-being). Consistent with such findings, optimism has been linked to higher levels of engagement coping and lower levels of avoidance, or disengagement, coping. There is evidence that optimism is associated with taking proactive steps to protect one's health, whereas pessimism is associated with health-damaging behaviors.
To investigate optimism, scientists first needed to develop reliable ways to measure the trait. Two systems are in widespread use; one measures dispositional optimism, the other explanatory style. Dispositional optimism depends on positive expectations for one's future. These are not confined to one or two aspects of life, but are generalized expectations for a good outcome in several areas. Many researchers use the 12-item Life Orientation Test to measure dispositional optimism. Explanatory style is based on how a person explains good or bad news. The pessimist assumes blame for bad news ("It's me"), assumes the situation is stable ("It will last forever"), and has a global impact ("It will affect everything I do"). The optimist, on the other hand, does not assume blame for negative events. Instead, he tends to give himself credit for good news, assume good things will last, and be confident that positive developments will spill over into many areas of his life. Researchers often use either the Attributional Style Questionnaire or the Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations method to evaluate optimism based on explanatory style.
An example of the better-than-average effect is when college professors are asked whether they do above-average work, and 94% of them say they do (Cross, 1977). They cannot all be right about that. An example of the optimism bias is when people underestimate the likelihood that their marriage will end in divorce or that they will develop a serious health condition during their lives (Weinstein, 1980).On the former definition, people evaluate their own prospects as better than those of similar others (or another specific reference group), in other words, they expect that positive outcomes are more likely and negative outcomes are less likely to occur for oneself than for others. On the latter definition, people’s risk assessment is unrealistically positive when compared to an objective criterion, such as an actuarial risk assessment or actual outcomes (e.g., a grade at the end of a college course). These forms of optimism bias need to be distinguished from dispositional optimism. Dispositional optimism is conceptualized as a personality trait, which people exhibit to different degrees.
In any event, with confidence and a positive attitude, optimists can take on goals and challenges that are not attainable. Too much confidence can put us in risky situations with relationships, money, work, etc. While pessimists have more of a negative or “realistic” outlook, they do tend to play it more safe. Is that a bad thing, though, to play it safe instead of taking risks? There needs to be a balance of the two, so we can tackle our dreams, but not risk any big for our goals. How we obtain our achievements is up to you, whether it be through a more optimist or pessimist attitude.
Cross K.P. Not can, but will college-teaching be improved. New Directions for Higher Education. 1977
Weinstein N.D. Unrealistic optimism about future life events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1980