London: Arnold. 109, 374–283. 95, 253–273. Sixty participants were recruited in India: 30 each (15 male, 15 female) from the two different socioeconomic areas used in the main study. Answer and Explanation: No, optimism is not an emotion. The term refers to a bias whereby “people rate negative events as less likely to happen to themselves than to the average person and positive events as more likely to happen to themselves than to the average person” (Harris and Hahn, 2011, p. 135). This number emanates from 43% assessing their chances across events as being on average 12.3% less than others, 9% estimating their chances to be the same as others, and 48% estimating their chances to be 5.6% better than others. Soc. There were four versions of the questionnaire, varying order of self-other rating and varying whether the example given was optimistic or pessimistic. Much research indicates that people underestimate their personal probability of encountering negative events. “High optimism will predict high effort and success,” she says. A pessimistic person is a downer. Factor 2 explained 41% of the variance and comprised event frequency. Psychol. Bhugra, D., and Mastrogianni, A. A number of universalist discourses surround research on unrealistic optimism. For example, you may think that the chance of your having a heart attack is 30% and the chance of people like you having a heart attack is also 30%; or you may think that because your health is very good the chance of your having a heart attack is only 10% and the chance of people like you having a heart attack is 30%.” In versions 2 and 4, the instruction read “The chances of an event occurring in your life may be the same or different from the chances of the event occurring in the lives of people like you. 2nd Edn, New York: W. W. Norton. In the years following the work of Hoftsede (1980, 2001) and Triandis (1988, 1995), it has been suggested that the collectivism of some cultures such as Japan has been overstated and, in any event, is locally variable and has been subject to change (Matsumoto, 1999, 2002; Takano and Sogon, 2008; Yamawaki, 2012). See Figure 2. A repeated measures ANOVA indicates that while both Indian and English participants ranked the good event items involving others as more desirable than the items involving self [F(1,90) = 32.21, p < 0.001], there is a suggestion that this difference was more striking for Indian than for English participants [average difference in rank between items involving others and items involving self: India = 2.08, SD = 2.23; England = 1.07, SD = 2.74; F(1,90) = 3.65, p = 0.059]. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Front. These findings may be interpreted either in terms of unrealistic optimism or in terms of an illusion of control. Psychol. Psychol. An informal essay. In versions 1 and 2, for each item, the participant firstly rated his/her own chance and then rated the chances for people like themselves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Two studies investigated the tendency of people to be unrealistically optimistic about future life events. Is education associated with a transition towards autonomy in partner choice? View all
They are particularly concerned with the risk perception of rare negative events, and suggest that the few respondents who for some reason have a rational reason to be pessimistic regarding the risk in question (for example through a known genetic predisposition to a rare disease) do not get a chance to register the full extent of their pessimism as the design of response scales does not enable their responses to balance the more moderate optimism of the majority who have a reason to be optimistic (for example by knowing they are not in an at risk group for the disease in question). Forty-seven participants (12 males, 35 females) did not have degree level qualifications and were in “intermediate”/secretarial/clerical occupations (Office for National Statistics, 2010). Cultural Psychology. Wkly. In this, as in many studies in social psychology, participants are requested to respond to a set of stimuli thought to represent categories of theoretical interest, and much may depend on the stimuli chosen by the researchers (Judd et al., 2012). Here are examples of optimism in idioms and popular phrases: If expectations are better than reality, the bias is optimistic; if reality is better than expected, the bias is pessimistic. J. It was considered important in the development of the list of events to be used in the current study to give priority to the Indian rather than the English future participants, on the assumption that Weinstein’s items would be even less appropriate to the former rather than the latter cultural group. Triandis, H. C. (1988). J. Abnorm. A series of studies by Savani and colleagues also indicate that the discourses of control and “choosing according to one’s personal preferences may not be as important to the experience of agency for Indians as it is for North Americans” (Savani et al., 2008, p. 861; Savani et al., 2010, 2011). Both Indian groups regarded events such as work success, moving to a better house, son/daughter being happily married as frequent, valued, and relatively controllable10. Closely related to the distinction between independent and interdependent concepts of self is the description of cultures as individualistic or collectivist, and just as East Asian cultures have been categorized as collectivist, so too has India (Hoftsede, 1980; Triandis and Suh, 2002)2. To start reaping these benefits, check out these 11 ways to become an optimist. Psychol. Circulation 97, 596–601. A fear of the evil eye is one possible explanation for lack of self-enhancement on good items. Econ. 11, 4–27. (2003). For example, in Loughnan et al.’s (2011) data set, Korea and Peru have very different profiles despite both being at the collectivist end of the I-C scale (Hoftsede, 2001). (2012). The English participants were randomly selected from non-academic employees in lower managerial and intermediate occupations at a university in the south of England. “Who sleeps by whom revisited: a method for extracting the moral goods implicit in practice”, in Cultural Practices as Contexts for Development. ZUMA-Nachrichten Spezial 3, 87–126. Another mechanism is the illusion of control (Langer, 1975). What is internal and external criticism of historical sources? In the case of good events a base rate bias of the kind suggested by Chambers and Windschitl (2004) and Rose et al. Researchers have zeroed in on a possible genetic basis for optimism, self-esteem, and mastery (the belief that you have control over your own life and destiny). Lorant, V., Croux, C., Weich, S., Deliege, D., Mackenbach, J., and Ansseay, M. (2007). Further, two of the classic studies which illustrate the contrasting attributional styles of those who have independent and interdependent concepts of self drew their non-Western samples from India (Shweder and Bourne, 1982; Miller, 1984). However, closer scrutiny of the key method for assessing Br. Neurosci. Delhi: Oxford University Press. However the data cannot be taken as giving clear support for the base rate explanation of unrealistic optimism as event frequency for good events was confounded with rank and controllability. Bull. The cultural shaping of depression: somatic symptoms in China, psychological symptoms in North America? In the same study cultural differences did emerge when the participants made indirect judgments and under these conditions Japanese respondents showed considerably less optimism than USA respondents. Psychol. Thirty-two (16 males, 16 females) of these participants were employees at Oxford Brookes University, England: 16 in managerial and 16 in clerical posts. 22, 1254–1258. Watch Queue Queue 4, 39–58. (2011). Are Japanese more collectivist than Americans? Imposed etics, emics, derived etics. J. Psychol. If expectations are better than reality, the. Regression coefficients showing the relationship of event controllability, desirability, and frequency to comparative optimism/pessimism. Br. Health 17, 437–446. So the error the individual is making is a different one. A further analysis of the perception of good events was conducted in light of the apparent nationality differences in how the items were ranked for desirability and for controllability. This number emanates from 77% assessing their chances across events as being on average 8.4% less than others, 10% estimating their chances to be the same as others, and 13% estimating their chances to be 4.5% worse than others. Psychology 4:6. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00006. *Correspondence: Mary Sissons Joshi, Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford OX3 0BP, UK. The local researchers reported that all the participants in Pune and Mumbai were Indian nationals, Hindu, and had Marathi as their mother tongue. The results, whose clinical relevance is discussed, suggest that the expression of unrealistic optimism is shaped by an interplay of culture and socioeconomic circumstance. Sinha, D., and Tripathi, R. C. (1994). Summary. J. Kurman, J. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littelfield. 46, 961–978. Heine, S. J., and Lehman, D. R. (1995). Illusion and well-being: a social psychological perspective on mental health. Tables 4 and 5 show responses to the individual items for good events according to average difference between expectation of event for self and for other, where optimism is indicated by a positive score – i.e., the expectation is that the chance for self is x percent more likely than the chance for other, and pessimism is indicated by a negative score – i.e., the expectation is that the chance for self is x percent less likely than the chance for other. Dillard, A., McCaul, K., and Klein, W. (2006). For higher SES Indians greater optimism was shown for the least frequent bad events. PLoS ONE 4:e7185. The phenomenon is also often referred to as "the illusion of invulnerability," "unrealistic optimism," and a "personal fable." Further, Bardhan (2009) has suggested that a like-with-like measure of income (as opposed to consumption) inequality would give India a Gini coefficient of income inequality of 53.5%, i.e., much higher than the UK’s score of 36%. But this is just when people meet for the first time and do not know each other. Cross Cult. It's rooted in the hormone oxytocin, also known as the love or cuddle hormone. London: Hamish Hamilton. For example, Chang et al. Hoorens, V., Smits, T., and Shepperd, J. Berry, J. W. (1989). Contrib. At first, the bulk of research was conducted using populations in North America and Northern Europe, the optimistic bias was thought of as universal, and little attention was paid to cultural context. However, a striking aspect of the unrealistic optimism literature is that the cultures used in the studies are somewhat restricted. Lower SES Indian participants were also pessimistic regarding another financial based event (“exotic foreign travel”) and the only bad item they were not optimistic about was their relative chance of experiencing “financial problems.” But it is unlikely that these financially related events can be held responsible for the lack of optimism shown for good events. Larger, enriched cages are associated with “optimistic” response biases in captive European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Soc. Keep a gratitude diary. Srinivas, M. N. (1962). Science 255, 946–952. Optimistic people are self-motivated people. For example, in the case of the lower SES Indian sample and the item “committing suicide,” the average difference score of −10.4% emanates from 51% participants stating that their chances were on average 22.5% less than others, 42% stating their chances were the same as others, and 7% stating that their chances were on average 14.3% more than others. Many aspects of parent-child interaction in India are frequently used to exemplify the development of the interdependent self (Shweder et al., 1995; Saraswathi and Ganapathy, 2002; Kapadia and Miller, 2005). Toronto: Centre for Global Health Research. Chang, E. C., and Asakawa, K. (2003). “Indian parents’ ethnotheories as reflections of the Hindu scheme of child and human development”, in Between Culture and Biology, eds H. Keller, Y. H. Poortinga, and A. Schölmerich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 79–88. (2008). Caste in Modern India and Other Essays. As already indicated, averaging across all good items, 43% of the lower SES Indian group were pessimistic about their relative chances of experiencing those items in comparison to people like themselves. Citing Tripathi (1988), Mishra (1994) proposes that for Indians in-group orientation may not signify collectivism in the “normal” sense but be used as a strategy for enhancement of the self or one’s own family. Reddy, K. S., and Yusuf, S. (1998). An entirely different explanation for self-enhancement has recently been suggested by Loughnan et al. J. Pers. Optimism sounds like a sales pitch, while pessimism sounds like someone trying to help you. And that's often the truth. Psychol. An alternative explanation for lack of apparent optimism on good items is that for some people lack of optimism – or indeed comparative pessimism – particularly in regard to common valued events, reflects a depressive state of mind12. 81, 476–491. Chambers and Windschitl (2004) and Rose et al. Optimism doesn’t mean engaging in wishful or fantastic thinking. Chang, E. C., Asakawa, K., and Sanna, L. J. Whereas optimism refers to a … Taylor, S. E., and Brown, J. D. (1988). Psychol. Perspective on coronary interventions and cardiac surgeries in India. “Lay explanations of the causes of diabetes in India and in the UK,” in Representations of Health, Illness and Handicap, eds I. Markova and R. Farr (Chur: Harwood Academic Publishers), 163–188. Biases in social comparative judgments: the role of nonmotivated factors in above-average and comparative optimism effects. Self-affirmation moderates effects of unrealistic optimism and pessimism on reactions to tailored risk feedback. Thanks are due to Roweni Vaidya, Swati Damle, and Anne Lee for research assistance, and to all the participants in Pune, Mumbai, and Oxford. In England, 200 administrative staff at Oxford Brookes University were invited by letter to respond to the questionnaire. 53, 133–160. The position regarding comparative optimism for good events was more complex. In India, participants were recruited by face-to-face invitation and specific residential locations were targeted in an attempt to match the type of occupations sampled in England. Laungani, P. (2007). Replies were received from 87 people (29 males, 58 females) constituting a 44% response rate among those asked (and 21% of the relevant work-force). For bad events, participants from both socioeconomic groups in India and England showed comparative optimism as they considered their chances of experiencing such events to be less than the chances of other people like themselves experiencing those events. Factor 1 explained 47% of the variance and comprised controllability and desirability. A., and Schoua-Glusberg, A. Figure 1. Table 1 displays participants’ comparative estimates of the chances of good and bad events happening in their own lives in comparison to the chances of those events happening in the lives of people like themselves. India also scores much higher than the UK on Hofstede’s Power Distance dimension thought to measure the extent to which hierarchy and inequality is accepted in a society6. This did not vary by SES, but the interaction between SES and nationality approached significance [F(1,283) = 3.45, p = 0.064] suggesting that the lower Indian frequencies were a feature of the lower SES Indians’ judgments (40.7%, SD = 16.48) and not of the higher SES Indians’ judgments whose frequency scores averaged at 47.3% (SD = 12.89) and were thus very similar to the judged frequencies offered by the English participants. But in general, most of the time, optimism is the correct default setting, and pessimism can be as big a sales pitch as anything – especially if it's around emotional topics like money and politics. (2003). Create some positive mantras. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007185. Psychol. Medora, N. (2003). The absolutely unrealistic individual is … From a psychoanalytic perspective, Kakar writes “With the Hindu emphasis on man’s inner limits, there is not that sense of urgency and struggle against the outside world, with the prospects of sudden metamorphoses and great achievements just around the corner, that often seems to propel Western lives” (Kakar, 1978, p. 49). IRB 33, 1–8.
Psychol. Bull. A robust finding in social psychology is that people judge negative events as less likely to happen to themselves than to the average person, a behavior interpreted as showing that people are unrealistically optimistic in their judgments of risk concerning future life events. Develop. Nature 450, 102–105. The majority of the early research on unrealistic optimism in the 1980s and 1990s was conducted on participants in the USA (q.v. Therefore, like East Asians, Indian participants might well be expected not to show unrealistic optimism. Br. Many of the events listed were similar to standard researcher generated lists, and also showed overlap with some of the new items suggested by Indian participants in the current study (e.g., being involved in a serious accident; early death of spouse/partner). Derné, S. (2008). Res. Bad events: comparative likelihood estimates, England. This supports McKenna’s (1993) proposition view that unrealistic optimism is not so much a general generalized expectancy for a positive outcome but more closely related to the extent to which participants consider that they have control over the outcome. Kakar, S. (1978). But self-enhancement is only one of the motivational mechanisms thought to be involved in unrealistic optimism. Lichtenstein, S., Slovic, P., Fischoff, B., Layman, M., and Combs, B. The Inner World: A Psycho-analytic Study of Childhood and Society in India. Korea has low income inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient) and low self-enhancement scores; Peru has high income inequality and high self-enhancement scores (the latter being far higher than those shown by the USA in the same data set). Jha, P., and Laxminarayan, R. (2009). Neurosci. Psychol. 117, 300–313. 68, 595–607. J. The questionnaire was translated into Marathi by one fluent Marathi/English speaker, and back translated into English by another fluent Marathi/English speaker. In his studies of unrealistic optimism, Weinstein (1989, 1984, Weinstein and Kliein, 1996) has proved evidence of the harmful effects of optimistic biases in risk perception related to a host of health hazards. Psychol. The New Japan: Debunking Cultural Stereotypes. Nevertheless it was notable that three of the 10 new items suggested in India involved money, which brought the number of explicitly financial items to a total of six items, four of which were located in the good event list. 103, 54–69. Table 2. While Indian and English participants ranked the good event items involving others as more desirable and more controllable than the good items involving self, this tendency was more striking for Indian than for English participants. unrealistic optimism Quick Reference A judgemental bias that tends to affect people's subjective estimates of the likelihood of future events in their lives, causing them to overestimate the likelihood of positive or desirable events and to underestimate the likelihood of negative or undesirable events. 132, 543–548. Among cultures in India, Hinduism in particular has been portrayed as such a culture. 47, 441–451. Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avatar. Joshi, 1995). This did not vary by SES, nor was there an interaction between SES and nationality. Sinha, J. (2012). While it has been argued that “the Indian psyche” is best understood as individualistic as well as collectivistic (Sinha and Tripathi, 1994; Kumar, 2004), it can confidently be said that, in many aspects of their philosophical position and emphasis on social harmony and hierarchy, cultures in India (spanning a variety of religions including Hinduism and Islam) share much with East Asian Confucian cultures (Laungani, 2007)3. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. 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