Tag Archives: optimism

Positive Thinking, Mental Contrasting Plus WOOP to Improve Performance

Gabriele Oettingen

Gabriele Oettingen

Positive thinking without implementation strategies is ineffective wishful thinking, found NYU’s Gabriele Oettingen.
She advocates a “Mental Contrast” process by considering obstacles and potential ways to manage them, using a mnemonic WOOP:

  • Wish,
  • Outcome,
  • Obstacle,
  • Plan.
Andreas Kappes

Andreas Kappes

Oettingen and University of London colleague Andreas Kappas noted two less effective approaches to goal engagement:

– Indulging by thinking about the desired future state without ways to overcome obstacles

– Dwelling by thinking about the present reality without future goals and ways to achieve them,

People who use these approaches are less committed to their goals than those who use Mental Contrast, even when chances of success were good in interpersonal relations, academic achievement, professional achievement, health, life management experiences.

Mental Contrast was an effective self-regulatory technique when coupled with Implementation Intentions (MCII) to improve achievement, interpersonal, and health habits.

However Mentally Contrasting was less effective when perceived chances of success were low.
This approach led to disengagement from goals.

In this case, Indulging in the future goal fantasy or Dwelling only in the present reality both maintained goal commitment.

Probability of Success-Mental Contrast-Indulve-Dwelling

In another study, volunteers who spent more time imagining working in a “dream job,” but who also had lower expectations of achieving this goal, received fewer job offers and lower starting salaries, found Oettingen and Doris Mayer of University of Hamburg.

They differentiated the motivational impact of:

  • Positive expectations for future success, which predicted high effort and successful performance,
  • Positive fantasies when the probability of success is low, which didn’t increase effort.

Mental Contrasting helped people disengage from unfeasible goals like rehabilitating an ended relationship or achieving an unattainable professional identity.
When chances of success are low, people can use Mental Contrast to move on to more feasible goals.

When facing controllable and escapable tasks, people benefitted from Mentally Contrasting fantasy with reality.
However, when facing tasks that cannot be mastered such as terminal illness, Indulging in positive fantasies enabled people to maintain a positive outlook.

Volunteers increased performance when they linked a negative personal attribute (“impulsivity”) with its positive element (“creativity”).

Timur Sevincer

Timur Sevincer

Participants showed greater effort-based creativity than those who were given no information or told that there’s no association between impulsivity and creativity.

This “silver lining theory” increased performance and enabled people to manage perceived negative attributes.

Mentally Contrasting a desired future (such as excelling in an intelligence test and writing an essay) with a present reality also increased physiological energization measured by systolic blood pressure and grip strength.

This energy activation from mental processes can increase effort to perform an unrelated task, concluded University of Hamburg’s A. Timur Sevincer and P. Daniel Busatta collaborating with Oettingen.

Philip Daniel Busatta

Philip Daniel Busatta

Coupling Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) helped economically-disadvantaged children convert positive thoughts about future outcomes into effective action, found University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Lee Duckworth, Teri A. Kirby of University of Washington with NYU’s Anton Gollwitzer and and Oettingen.

Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

Student volunteers learned to compare a desired future with potential obstacles, then developed if–then implementation intentions to potential outcomes.

More than 75 U.S. urban middle school 10 year olds were randomly assigned to learn either MCII or a Positive Thinking strategy as a control comparison.

Student volunteers who applied MCII tools to their academic goals significantly improved their report card grades, attendance, and conduct, suggesting the value of Mental Contrasting to enhance goal commitment and realization.

Mental Contrasting can increase motivation, particularly when coupled with Implementation Intentions.
An exception occurs when the probability of successfully achieving goals is low.
In those cases, Indulging or Dwelling strategies are more effective in maintaining goal motivation.

  • How have you seen Mental Contrasting and considering your probability of success to manage your motivation and performance?

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Price of Job “Flexibility” for Women: Lower Salaries

Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin

Women in professions noted for their schedule and location “flexibility” are shortchanged with smaller paychecks than men in equivalent roles, according to Harvard’s Claudia Goldin.
She analyzed higher-paying occupations, and validated the frequently-cited finding that women earn an average of 71 percent of men’s wages after controlling for age, race, hours and education.

In addition, Goldin found significant differences related to flexibility in work schedule or location or ability of colleagues to substitute for each other.
For example, women financial specialists earned 66 percent of men’s pay in the same field, but women pharmacists earned 91 percent of their male colleagues’ salaries.  Goldin-Womens salaries as percentage of mens

Comparable salaries were reported for male and female tax preparers, ad sales agents and human resources specialists, attributable to workers’ ability to substitute for each other.
Among medical professions, obstetricians and “hospitalists” have introduced “interchangeability” with trusted colleagues.

This difference is explained by higher pay for roles that require longer hours, physical presence for “office face time,” and 24×7 availability, known as “non-linear” occupations.

In these fields, like law and investment banking, women typically work fewer hours and earn less than men:  A lawyer who works 80 hours a week at a large corporate law firm earns more than double one who works 40 hours a week as an in-house counsel at a smaller business.

Francine Blau

Francine Blau

In contrast, women and men in “linear” occupations such as pharmacists, computer hardware engineers, and computer software engineers, report similar number of hours worked and earn equivalent incomes:  A pharmacist who works 40 hours a week generally earns double the salary of a pharmacist who works 20 hours a week, and as a result, the pay gap for pharmacists is one of the smallest.

Lawrence Kahn

Lawrence Kahn

The U.S. reports relatively larger gender-based pay gap than other advanced countries, found Cornell’s Francine Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, and they attributed this wage disparity to “the very high level of U.S. wage inequality.

Uri Gneezy

Uri Gneezy

Another explanation for this discrepancy was that men in competitive environments improve their performance, but when women’s performance remains about the same as in non-competitive situations with they challenge men, reported University of California San Diego’s Uri Gneezy, Muriel Niederle of Stanford and Aldo Rustichini of University of Minnesota.

Muriel Niederle

Muriel Niederle

In contrast, women’s performance increased when they competed with women, suggesting that women are willing and able to compete, but may not experience the enhancing effect of the workplace “tournament.”  

Aldo Rustichini

Aldo Rustichini

This gender difference in competitive environments may explain women’s under-representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic programs and job roles.
Supporting this hypothesis is the finding that competition and lack of mentor and peer support are linked to women’s voluntary exit from engineering programs, according to Goodman Research Group’s Irene F. Goodman with Christine M. Cunningham and Cathy Lachapelle of Boston Museum of Science.

Irene Goodman

Irene Goodman

These organizational climate factors have been tied to decreased feelings of competence, confidence, and optimism, reported University of North Carolina’s Beril Ülkü-Steiner and Beth Kurtz-Costes, with C. Ryan Kinlaw of Marist College, and these can undermine women’s work performance.

 Beth Kurz-Costes

Beth Kurz-Costes

Wage parity is more likely for those who optimize performance during cross-gender competition and select roles with a high degree of “interchangeability” and “linearity” between hours worked and salaries.

C Ryan Kinlaw

C Ryan Kinlaw

Another solution for those who prefer to earn more than average for their occupation is to work longer hours and more continuously throughout their careers.

-*How can women increase performance with competing with men?

-*What occupations have a “linear” relationship between hours worked and compensation?

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Unrealistic Optimism Drives Profitability

Overconfident decision-making in financial markets led to myriad negative consequences in the past decade, when companies underestimated business risks. 

Gilles Hilary

Gilles Hilary

In contrast to overconfidence, unrealistically optimistic judgments can result in increased profitability and market value, according to INSEAD’s Gilles Hilary and Benjamin Segal with Charles Hsu of Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.

Benjamin Segal

Benjamin Segal

Hilary, Hsu, and Segal demonstrated that over-optimism differs from overconfidence, and may result in larger growth projections.

Charles Hsu

Charles Hsu

The team drew on earlier work by University of Illinois’s Dirk Hackbarth that showed both overconfident, and overoptimistic managers chose higher debt levels and issued more new debt.
Hackbarth did not differentiate over-confident and over-optimistic investment behaviors, and reported that both tendencies reduce manager-shareholder conflict, which can increase firm value.

Dirk Hackbarth

Dirk Hackbarth

Static over-optimism” refers to an unrealistically positive view of the impact of one’s own actions on future outcomes.
In contrast, “dynamic overconfidence” refers to overvaluation of one’s skills and the accuracy of private information.
In addition, “dynamic overconfidence”  is associated with  underestimates of random events after several positive outcomes, according to Hackbarth.

Together, static over-optimism and dynamic overconfidence lead to “dynamic over-optimism” after successes.

Neil Weinstein

Neil Weinstein

The pervasiveness of this “rose-tinted glasses” view leading to over-optimistic assessments was demonstrated by Neil Weinstein of University of Arizona.
He investigated people’s beliefs about future positive and negative health events, discussed in a previous blog post.
Weinstein reported that people tend to believe negative events are less likely to happen to them than to others, whereas they expect they are more likely than other people to experience positive events.

Hilary’s team built on Hackbarth’s concepts by comparing North American companies’ quarterly earnings forecasts with analysts’ predictions and actual performance.
Then, they calculated the number of company-issued press releases containing optimistic language.

Optimistic performance forecasts were correlated with better-than-expected performance, suggesting that successes led to additional effort and positive expectations.

Hilary noted the potentiating effect of past successful performance, though it may lead to “burnout” after about four quarters due to the challenge of continually exceeding performance expectations.

The team noted that this cycle of over-optimism and burnout might be mitigated by instituting policies to moderate overestimates or underestimates future performance by rewarding executives who provide accurate forecasts.

Sheryl Winston Smith

Sheryl Winston Smith

Similarly, Temple’s Sheryl Winston Smith noted that optimistic entrepreneurs chose higher levels of debt financing relative to equity, facilitating patent-based and product-based innovation among nearly 5,000 US firms tracked by the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS).

Young-Hoon Kim

Young-Hoon Kim

In contrast to these financial studies, Yonsei University’s Young-Hoon Kim, Nanyang Technical University’s Chi-yue Chiu and Zhimin Zou of University of Illinois reported mixed results for self-enhancing (overconfident) and self-effacing (pessimistic) biases on performance

Chiu Chi-Yue

Chiu Chi-Yue

Kim’s team posited that either over-optimistic or pessimistic biases lead to “self-handicapping” behavior, in which people perform under disadvantageous conditions that provide an explanation for any poor performance outcomes.

Although over-optimism may drive innovation and financial results, longer-term consequences may include performance “burnout,” reduced motivation, and lower performance.

-*How to you manage the impact of optimism bias and pessimism bias on judgments and performance?

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Increase Self-Control with Purpose in Life, Positive Outlook, Humility

Anthony Burrow

Anthony Burrow

People with a sense of purpose are more likely to make choices with long-term benefits like saving for retirement and children’s education.
In addition, they are less likely to be diverted by short-term gratification and impulsive actions like such as cigarette smoking, drug use, gambling, and driving under the influence, found Cornell’s Anthony L. Burrow and R. Nathan Spreng in work with more than 500 adults.
As a result, Purpose in Life was related to reduced impulsivity and increased self-control.

Nathan Spreng

Nathan Spreng

Volunteers completed a personality inventory and a self-rating of Purpose in Life before making choices about whether to take a smaller amount of money immediately or a larger amount at some later date.

Waiting times and amount of the payoffs differed during each trial.
Participants who said they had a clear life purpose made longer-term, higher-payoff choices, suggesting greater ability to curb the impulse for an immediate reward, and greater self-management capacity.

Chai Jing

Chai Jing

Another factor in reducing one type of impulsive behavior – dangerous driving – is a “positivity bias,” hallmarked by seeing positive events as more salient than negative incidents, reported University of Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Chai Jing , Weina Qu, Xianghong Sun, Kan Zhang, and Yan Ge.

Weina Qu

Weina Qu

They studied more than 40 non-professional drivers using electroencephalograph data, self-reports of driving, violation reports, and International Affective Picture System (IAPS)  scores to measure negativity biases.

Volunteers identified whether a series of 80 pictures had blue borders or red borders around images that implicitly evoke negative, positive, or neutral emotions.
Dangerous drivers took longer to respond on the border-color task when the image was negative, suggesting greater attention to negative input.

Patrick Hill

Patrick Hill

Sense of purpose is also linked to greater longevity in a study by Carleton University’s Patrick Hill and Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester, in their study of more than 6100 Americans followed over 14 years.

Rachel Sumner

Rachel Sumner

Purpose in Life can increase White adult’s comfort with diverse groups, and may be associated with reduced prejudice, noted Cornell’s Burrow and Rachel Sumner, Maclen Stanley of Harvard, and Carlton University’s Patrick L. Hill in their study of more than 500 Americans.

Maclen Stanley

Maclen Stanley

Participants who received an experimental prime of life purpose also reported less preference for living in an ethnically homogeneous White city.
These effects persisted were independent of volunteers’ positive affect and perceived connections to ethnic out-groups.

Eddie M.W. Tong

Eddie M.W. Tong

Humility is another characteristic associated with reduced impulsivity and greater self-control in research by National University of Singapore’s Eddie M.W. Tong, Kenny W.T. Tan, Agapera A.B. Chor, Emmeline P.S. Koh, Jehanne S.Y. Lee, and Regina W.Y. Tan.

Defined as the ability to tolerate failures without self-deprecation, and to view successes without developing a sense of superiority, humility primes were associated with improved performance in a physical stamina (handgrip), resisting chocolate, and an insoluble tracing task.

Kenny W.T. Tan

Kenny W.T. Tan

Humility’s effect on self-regulation was significantly different from self-esteem, which had no impact on self-control.
Likewise, achievement motivation and compliance motivation did not explain increased performance.

Taken together, these findings suggest that effectively managing oneself in the face of challenging and tempting circumstances is enhanced by having a clear purpose in life, cultivating a positive bias and humility.

-*To what extent does having a sense of purpose make it easier to maintain self-control in challenging situations?

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Cynical Beliefs Linked to Lower Earnings, Poorer Health

Olga Stavrova

Olga Stavrova

People who hold cynical beliefs about human nature and the world have lower incomes than those with a more optimistic view, found University of Cologne’s Olga Stavrova and Daniel Ehlebracht.

Cynical beliefs are measured by statements including:

  • “I think most people would lie to get ahead,”
  • “It’s safer to trust nobody,”
  • “Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.”
Daniel Ehlebracht

Daniel Ehlebracht

People who agree with these ideas may avoid cooperation, trust and collaboration with others and while focusing on monitoring, control, and preventing potential exploitation.

Volunteers who endorsed these self-protective behaviors and cynical beliefs reported lower personal income than people who demonstrate greater trust and interpersonal collaboration in studies using a representative sample of Americans between 1986 and 2012, and replicated with a representative German group between 2003 and 2012.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

A related study showed that income-suppressing cynical beliefs are not associated with enduring personality characteristic measured by Robert McCrae of NIH and Paul Costa’s Big Five personality dimensions.

In addition, lower earnings were not explained by cynical individuals’ poorer health, lower education, and greater agreement with items that measure neuroticism and introversion.

Paul Costa

Paul Costa

However, some cynical beliefs are justified by the local environment, such as in counties with low levels of charitable giving, high homicide rates and high overall societal cynicism levels.
Survey data from 41 countries showed that people in these contexts who held cynical beliefs did not have lower personal income than those with more optimistic views.

Anna-Maija Tolppanen

Anna-Maija Tolppanen

Holding cynical beliefs about people was also associated with greater risk of dementia and death among the elderly in a study over 8 to 10 years, according to University of Eastern Finland’s Elisa NeuvonenMinna Rusanen, Anna-Maija Tolppanen, collaborating with Alina Solomon of University of Kuopio, Flinders University’s Tiina Laatikainen, with Tiia Ngandu of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, Hilkka Soininen of Hospital District of North Karelia, and Kuopio University Hospital’s Miia Kivipelto.

Alina Solomon

Alina Solomon

The team measured cynical distrust with the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale (CMHS) by University of Minnesota’s Walter Cook and Donald Medley, and cognitive status using screening, clinical phase, and differential diagnosis using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for more than 1450 people.

People with highest level of cynical distrust had higher risk of dementia after the researchers controlled for confounding factors including:

  • Age,
  • Gender,
  • Systolic blood pressure,
  • Total cholesterol,
  • Fasting glucose,
  • Body mass index,
  • Socioeconomic background,
  • Smoking,
  • Alcohol use,
  • Self-reported health,
  • Apolipoprotein E (APOE).
Tiina Laatikainen

Tiina Laatikainen

People with highest levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism, even when Neuvonen’s team controlled for effects of dementia risk, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

Tiia Ngandu

Tiia Ngandu

This finding supports suggestions that people who are more open and optimistic have a lower risk for dementia.

Hilary Tindle

Hilary Tindle

In related findings, positive expectations about the future, and trait optimism were associated with reduced rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) and mortality in postmenopausal women, reported University of Pittsburgh’s Hilary A. Tindle, Yue-Fang Chang, Lewis H. Kuller, Greg J. Siegle, Karen A. Matthews, collaborating with Harvard’s JoAnn E. Manson, Jennifer G. Robinson of University of Iowa, and University of Massachusetts’ Milagros C. Rosal.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

More than 97,250 white and black women with no signs of cancer and cardiovascular disease completed the Life Orientation Test–Revised (LOT-R) by Carnegie Mellon’s Michael Scheier and Charles Carver of University of Miami, plus the Cook Medley Questionnaire’s cynicism subscale.

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Women who scored in the top quartile for optimism had lower age-adjusted rates of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and total mortality.
Black women with this optimistic perspective also had significantly less cancer-related mortality.

In contrast, those who scored in the top quartile for cynical hostility had significantly higher rates of CHD and total mortality, reinforcing the value of cultivating a positive viewpoint.

Hilkka Soininen

Hilkka Soininen

Likewise, individuals with the highest cynical distrust measured by Cook-Medley Hostility Scale had higher risk of dementia after adjusting for confounding factors including socioeconomic position, lifestyle, alcohol use, and health status, found Neuvonen’s team.

Financial, physical, and cognitive well-being can be enhanced by cultivating optimism and trust and reducing cynicism.

-*How do you increase and sustain optimism, trust, and collaboration?

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Mitigating Pervasive “Cheap Talk” at Work, in Dating

Paul Oyer

Paul Oyer

“Cheap talk,” a game theory concept, took on personal meaning for Stanford’s Paul Oyer during his foray into the online dating “marketplace” at OkCupid.

He was candid on some parts of his profile but edited details in other areas is explained by game theory’s “cheap talk,” which suggests that the value of editing and embellishing information is based on expected utility – potential dating partners’ selection criteria – in relation to the possible cost of selective reporting – “overcoming barriers to entry” but being disqualified for lack of full disclosure.

Data from OkCupid and match.com suggest that many participants engage in cheap talk, to enhance physical attractiveness and fitness as well as income.
As a result, “profile inflators’ curatorial enhancements” (non-cooperative cheap talk) led most to discount most all claims as “cheap talk,” leading to a significant disadvantage for truthfully uninflated profiles (cooperative cheap talk), noted Oyer.

Jonathan Zinman

Jonathan Zinman

Marketing and advertising campaigns have the reputation for employing cheap talk, documented by Dartmouth’s Jonathan Zinman and Eric Zitzewitz, who found that ski resorts exaggerate snowfall, especially during periods including holidays and weekends.

Eric Zitzewitz

Eric Zitzewitz

However, external verification through real time reporting via smartphones reduced the revenue-enhancing effect of meteorological exaggeration, according to Zinman and Zitzewitz.

Like resort marketers, CEOs may engage in a cycle of optimistic forward-looking statements, based on expectations that any statement would be discounted as “cheap talk,” noted Harvard’s Jeremy Stein.

Jeremy Stein

Jeremy Stein

Similarly, before he became a member of the Federal Reserve, Stein found that official statements by the Chair of the Federal Reserve were more credible and less likely to contain “cheap talk” when a target range for inflation was announced, instead of a precise value.

Stock analysts, too, are a source of influential “cheap talk,” particularly when a company goes public, because their employer’s other services securities underwriting become more valuable, observed National Taiwan University’s Hsiou-wei Lin and Maureen McNichols of Stanford.

Hsiou-Wei Lin

Hsiou-Wei Lin

They found that analysts employed by a bank that worked with the target company provided higher forecasts than independent analysts.
As a result, the stock market was “less responsive” to assumed “cheap talk” of in-house analysts.

Maureen McNichols

Maureen McNichols

To manage “cheap talk,” Stanford’s Nobel laureate A. Michael Spence modeled signaling information to a valued target audience in the job market.
In online dating, this could be sending a virtual rose, to indicate greater-than-average interest in meeting, resulting in increased acceptance rates for participants with “average desirability” of income level and physical characteristics.

A Michael Spence

A Michael Spence

“Signaling” has become a familiar process in university application processes, when candidates indicate clear preference and intention to attend if accepted, at the “cost” of foregoing other early decision applications.

Like “signaling,” external verification of “cheap talk” claims review sites like Yelp.com, or even friend-of-a-friend accounts can increase the “cost” and reduce exaggerated claims.

-*When has “cheap talk” contributed to achieving goals?
-*How do you manage “cheap talk” by others?

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·         Unrealistic Optimism Drives Profitability

·         Useful Fiction: Optimism Bias of Positive Illusions

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“Grit” Rivals IQ and EQ to Achieve Goals

Emotional intelligence has been demonstrated to be a better predictor of achievement and performance than measure of intelligence. 

Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth

One important component of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is perseverance, the consistent, sustained and focused application of talent and effort over time, University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Duckworth.  

Christopher Peterson

Christopher Peterson

She refers to this perseverance and passion for long-term goals as “grit” in her research with West Point cadets and Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants, in collaboration with University of Michigan’ Christopher Peterson and Michael Matthews and Dennis Kelly of United States Military Academy, West Point.

Grit was not related to IQ but was highly correlated with “Conscientiousness,” a personality trait described in the Five Factor Model of Personality.
It was also a better predictor of “success” as measured by retention at West Point, and advancement in the National Spelling Bee.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews

In addition, “grittier” participants:

  • Achieved higher levels of education
  • Had fewer job switches and career changes
  • Earned higher school grades than their peers, despite having lower standardized test scores measuring intelligence and achievement
  • Devoted more hours to deliberate practice (defined as individual word study and memorization for spelling bee contestants).
Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

K. Anders Ericcson

K. Anders Ericcson

The most effective deliberate practice was rated as the least pleasurable, and “grittier” individuals did more of this effort in Duckworth’s expanded study with Teri Kirby, Eli Tsukayama, Heather Berstein,  then of Penn with K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University.

Heather Berstein

Heather Berstein

Practice activities rated as more pleasurable and less effortful, like reading for pleasure, being quizzed by their parents, contributed less to spelling performance.

Paul Tough

Paul Tough

Parents and educators found responded enthusiastically to Paul Tough’s popularized summary of “grit” research in his book advising parents and teachers how to help young people develop grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
He “gritty” attributes highly correlated with successful academic and career performance.

Duckworth expanded the investigation of grit to include “explanatory style”, seen in individuals’ propensity to explain events from optimistic or pessimistic perspectives.
Explanatory style is evaluated according to whether the individual considers event causes as:

  • Personal (Internal vs. External cause or influence)
  • Permanent (Stable vs. Unstable)
  • Pervasive (Global vs. Local/Specific)

Optimistic explanatory style is characterized by external, unstable, local / specific explanations, whereas pessimistic styles include internal, stable, global attributions.

Duckwork and team found that novice teachers with more optimistic explanatory styles rated themselves higher in both grit and life satisfaction, and these high ratings were associated with better work effectiveness, as evaluated at the end of the school year.

Eli Tsukayama

Eli Tsukayama

Katherine Von Culin

Katherine Von Culin

Her students, Katherine Von Culin and Eli Tsukayama “unpacked” grit and found different difference in motivation and beliefs for grit’s two components:  perseverance vs passion.
Among more than 300 volunteers, they found that perseverance and passion had different meaning, pleasure, and engagement orientations to happiness and implicit beliefs about willpower.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

The research team is evaluating the relationship between “grit” and “growth mindset,” introduced by Stanford’s Carol Dweck to signify viewing failures and setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than a permanent lack of ability.

ell

ell

Dweck, with Lisa Blackwell, then of Columbia and University of Western Ontario’s Kali Trzesniewski demonstrated the impact of growth mindset and positive explanatory style on school motivation and achievement.

In addition, Duckworth and team are considering ability to delay gratification as a component of grit, since it has been associated with greater self-control and life accomplishment.

More grit may not always lead to greater accomplishment.
Duckworth and team speculate that grittier individuals may be:

  • More vulnerable to the “sunk-cost fallacy
  • Less open to information that contradicts their present beliefs
  • Handicapped by judgment and decision-making biases
  • Likely to new opportunities because they are tenaciously focused on the original goal.
Emilia Lahti

Emilia Lahti

Duckworth‘s colleague at Penn, Emilia Lahti is leading research on grit’s Finnish cousin, “Sisu,” implying perseverance, bravery and stamina, and should report her findings by the end of 2013.

Assess your “grittiness” with the research team’s survey.

-*How accurately does your score reflect your view of your grittiness, perseverance?

-*How do you develop grit in yourself and others?

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Is Optimistic View of the Future Associated with Disabilities, Shorter Life Expectancy?

Frieder Lang

Frieder Lang

Frieder Lang of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and German Institute for Economic Research and his colleagues challenged the robust, replicated finding that optimism is associated with positive health outcomes.

David Weiss

David Weiss

Lang with University of Zurich’s David Weiss and Denis Gerstorf of Humboldt-University of Berlin and German Institute for Economic Research examined data from 1993 to 2003  German Socio-Economic Panel household surveys.

Denis Gerstorf

Denis Gerstorf

The team collaborated with Gert Wagner of German Institute for Economic Research and Max Planck Institute for Human Development evaluated approximately ratings from 40,000 people 18 to 96 years old, concerning their current and predicted life satisfaction in five years.

Gert Wagner

Gert Wagner

Their disruptive finding is that participants who expected highest life satisfaction in five years were more likely to experience disability and death within the following decade.

Five years after the first interviews:

  • 43 percent of participants were more satisfied with their lives than predicted,
  • 25 percent predicted accurately
  • 32 percent overestimated their life satisfaction with an optimistic bias.

Lang, Weiss, Gerstorf, and Wagner calculated that overestimating future life satisfaction was related to a 9.5 percent increase in reporting disabilities and a 10 percent increased incidence of death.

The youngest participants had the most optimistic outlook, whereas middle-aged adults made the most accurate predictions, but became more pessimistic over time.

Lauren Alloy

Lauren Alloy

Older adults’ predictions of future life satisfaction may be more accurate, albeit less optimistic, consistent with Shelley Taylor, Ellen Langer, Lauren Alloy, Lyn Abramson and others demonstration of an “optimism bias” and “depressive realism.”

Lyn Abramson

Lyn Abramson

In contrast to findings that higher income is associated with better health outcomes, Lang’s team found that stable, good health and income were associated with expecting a greater decline compared with those in poor health or with low incomes.
In contrast to other findings, higher income was related to a greater risk of disability.

Shelley Taylor

Shelley Taylor

Lang and team concluded that the outcomes of optimistic, accurate or pessimistic forecasts may depend on age, available resources, and motivation to adopt health-improving behaviors.
They acknowledged that unrealistic optimism about the future may help people feel better when they are facing inevitable negative outcomes, such as terminal disease.

Neil Weinstein

Neil Weinstein

Similarly, Neil Weinstein of Rutgers found that people may underestimate susceptibility to harm from a variety of hazards.
Close to 300 volunteers across age, gender, educational levels and occupational groups, demonstrated an optimism bias that they were less at risk than peers.

Weinstein hypothesized that optimism bias may be introduced when people extrapolate from their past experience to estimate their future vulnerability.
Therefore, volunteers future expectations may be biased  because they tended not to expect problems they had not already experienced.

He demonstrated that these personal risk judgments were not correlated with volunteers’ actual objective risk factors, suggesting that volunteers did not modify their optimistic biases based on laboratory findings, physical examination, and reported health habits.
Positive illusions persist even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Eric Kim

Eric Kim

These findings that optimistic bias may not be associated with positive health outcomes contrasts with findings from including University of Michigan’s Eric S Kim, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson, who found that “Dispositional Optimism” protects older adults from stroke.

George Patton

George Patton

Similarly, George Patton and colleagues at Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville, Victoria, Australia reported that optimism has a somewhat protective effect on adolescent health risks in a prospective study.

Eric Giltay

Eric Giltay

Yet another counterpoint to Lang and team’s work was offered by Eric Giltay and colleagues at Leiden University Medical Center Johanna Geleijnse, Frans Zitman, Brian Buijsse, and Daan Kromhout, who demonstrated that optimists typically report healthier habits, like less smoking and drinking alcohol, more physical activity and consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole-grain bread.

-*What do you make of these conflicting findings about optimism’s role in health outcomes?

-*How have you seen optimism relate to health outcomes: Does it seem to drive healthy behaviors and outcomes or poorer health?

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Health Benefits of Positive Emotions, Outlook

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Frederickson of University of North Carolina posits that negative emotions aid human survival by narrowing and limiting people’s perceived range of possible actions, whereas positive emotions enhance survival by “broadening and building” options for action.

She detailed her lab-based research in Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life and her talk at UC Berkeley Greater Good Science CenterPositivity

Her lab’s findings suggest that positive thinking expands awareness and perception of the surrounding world, so can lead to innovative solutions to problems.

She suggests intentionally implementing a “broaden-and-build” approach to emulate this expanded view: Choose a degree of focus and perspective depending on requirements.

For example, to garner more clout in a discussion, she suggests involving more people who will provide support.
Similarly, to mitigate negative thinking or “tunnel vision,” think more broadly by viewing “the big picture.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School referred this perceptual shift as “zooming in” and “zooming out”, depending on the perspective requires.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Frederickson found that people who experience positive thinking are:

* Healthier
* More generous
* More productive
* Bounce back from adversity more quickly
* Are better managers of people
* Live longer
than those with a bleaker outlook.

Fredrickson’s research implies that positive emotions can mitigate the cardiovascular effects of negative emotions and stress.

In these activated conditions, people generally have increased heart rate, higher blood sugar, greater immunosuppression.
These conditions tax physical systems and can lead to life-threatening illnesses like coronary disease.

To mitigate these negative health consequences, Fredrickson recommends observing positive emotional experiences of joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
Besides noticing these experiences, she advocates writing and meditating about these to increase grateful awareness.

In addition, Frederickson echoes common wisdom:

  • Spend time in nature to appreciate the natural world
  • Develop interests
  • Invest time in relationships
  • Reduce exposure to negative news
  • Practice kindness
  • Dispute negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts.

Frederickson extends her research agenda on positive emotions in her latest book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Love 2-0

She broadens the concept of love to suggest that love – or an intense connection – occurs when people share positive emotion.
This lead to alignment between people’s biochemistries,  particularly the release of oxytocin and vagal nerve functioning.
Related emotions and behaviors synchronize and mirror each other, resulting in shared interest in mutual well-being  in a three-phase  “positivity resonance.”

She argues that love “literally changes your mind.
It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self.
The boundaries between you and not-you – what lies beyond your skin – relax and become more permeable.
While infused with love, you see fewer distinctions between you and others.”

Fredrickson argues that this intense connection requires physical presence, and cannot be replaced by existing digital media — reinforcing her recommendation to invest in relationships with others.

-*What practices enable you to cultivate and sustain positive emotions?

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