Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Do realistic optimists have more successful lives?

I think realistic optimists probably do have more successful lives than optimists and pessimists, but unfortunately I cannot claim that I have a particularly strong basis for that view.

A couple of months ago I notice a story by Tia Ghose on Huffington Post reporting on research findings by Sophia Chou of the National Taiwan University. The research apparently suggests that realistic optimists – people who combine the positive outlook of optimists with the clear-eyed perspective of pessimists – get the best of both worlds. Their realism enables them to perform better at work because they don’t delude themselves that they can do well without working hard. Their optimism enables them to avoid getting bogged down by unhappiness.

I was particularly interested because of something I wrote on this blog a couple of years ago entitled: Why can’t we have a realistic basis for optimism? My consideration was prompted by a discussion by Martin Seligman of issues relating to possible circumstances where expectations may influence reality.

After reading the article by Tia Ghose, I decided to go looking for the relevant paper by Sophia Chou, which was presented at the American Psychological Association in Hawaii earlier this year. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the paper on the internet. I could write to the author and ask for a copy, but I don’t think I will bother. My qualifications are in economics, so I have reason to be pessimistic about my ability to judge the quality of the research behind these findings.

Sophia Chou’s research findings seem to me to make a lot of sense, but I guess a realistic optimist would wait for her paper to be published in a peer reviewed journal before getting excited about them.

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