Optimism

Being Optimistic Is Good. Knowing about Optimism Bias Is Better.

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Most of us think we are prudent in how we make decisions. We weigh our options and make the best possible choice in any given situation. But the cognitive reality is that people constantly underestimate the likelihood of something bad happening to them and overestimate the chances of positive events. This belief that things will be better in the future is known as optimism bias. Being overly optimistic can lead you to miss an important health check up or make bad financial decisions. There are also larger societal implications.

Recent research by Professor Chris Dawson from UK’s University of Bath, published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, points to the significant effect optimism bias has on the labor market.

The study shows how financial optimism bias is both a necessity and the Achilles’s heel of entrepreneurship. Starting your own business is a very forward-looking action but you open yourself up to much uncertainty. And studies have shown that optimism is highest at such moments, especially as the fate of the business is in your hands. Notably, research asserts that optimists are more likely to be attracted to activities that inspire more optimism.

This article is part of The Hope and Optimism initiative. Explore the theoretical, empirical, and practical dimensions of hope, optimism, and related states: — How Optimistic Are You? It Probably Depends on Your Age

While being your own boss tends to cause greater job satisfaction, there’s a downside. For one, according to studies cited by Dr. Dawson, most entrepreneurs don’t do well—a few are, statistically speaking, very successful. And with the amount of money people invest in their businesses (70% on average), the return on investment is the same as if they invested in stocks that tracked the market. Too many people go…

Why Hopefulness Is a Greater Predictor of Academic Success than Intelligence

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U.S. Naval Academy graduates throw their hats in the air during graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This article is part of the Hope and Optimism initiative which explores the theoretical, empirical, and practical dimensions of hope, optimism, and related states.

Succeeding at school or university is about more than memorizing vast amounts of information and impressing professors with ingenious ideas. A growing body of scientific investigation now supports the conclusion that being hopeful has a distinctly positive effect on academic performance.

One paper from the University of Kansas looked at how the presence of hope boosted college achievement over a 6-year period, finding that ‘high-hope’ students had higher GPAs, and were more likely to graduate than ‘low-hope’ students.

A separate 3-year study by a team of British researchers has shown that hope is not only related to academic success, but is a greater predictor of success than intelligence tests, personality, or whether individuals previously did well in academic environments.

But what is hope? Recent studies have based their definition on positive psychologist Rick Snyder’s theory developed in the 1990s. Snyder saw hope as a “cognitive process allowing individuals to plan for and execute the pursuit of goals.”

Snyder’s separate “hope theory” offers more insight on the concept of hope.

Students studying
Students studying

Students study with their laptop computers in the Pedagogical Library at the Freie Universitaet university on September 20, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In a 1991 paper, Snyder outlined his theory as “a cognitive set that is based on a reciprocally-derived sense of successful agency (goal-directed determination) and pathways (planning to meet goals)”. In other words, it is essential for hope that a person feels he or she has agency — an ability…