Are we “Too optimistic about being optimistic?”
A group of people take a test, half are given positive reinforcement immediately before the test and half were given negative reinforcement before the test. Who does better? Social media is flooded with optimism regarding fitness and getting into shape but what does optimism actually do. A group of psychologists performed a number of studies recently, looking into the effectiveness of optimism and they found that people may be “too optimistic about optimism”.
The studies found that optimism, whilst improving persistence, has no effect directly on success. People will often prescribe themselves a healthy dose of optimism and relate it to success but unfortunately this is unjustified. Being optimistic may do wonders for motivation or persistence at a task. As a result this may inevitably lead to an increased ability to succeed. However, it doesn't directly mean success.
The research wanted to highlight that optimism may be beneficial in some cases, however is it the best pill to take? Optimism is in the shadows of Competence and Ability. You're more likely to succeed if your attention is drawn to ways to increase your accuracy or expertise.
The research used an analogy of Pandora’s box to help distinguish the point. Is optimism a tool to help us get through a test or is it in fact a hindrance from actually focusing on passing it.
“In the Greek Legend of Pandora’s Box, by opening the box, Pandora releases great evil into the world: Death, envy, hate, greed and illness. At the bottom of the box, the very last thing to emerge is hope. Perhaps the optimism of hope sustains us through all the challenges, travails, humiliations, disappointments, and frustrations of life. Readers of the Pandora legend, however, disagree about whether the hope that Pandora drew last from the box was the blessing that allows us to endure all the rest, or whether hope’s temptation to disregard reality makes it, in fact, another curse”.
There is something to be “optimistic” about. The researchers advised, the two indicators that directly relate to success and greater performance are your actual ability to succeed and your attention to accuracy. The irony of this is, that by doing so any optimism you may experience is now warranted.
The conclusion - a group of people take a test, half are given positive reinforcement immediately before the test and half were given negative reinforcement before the test. Who does better?
The people that are best prepared for the test do best!