The American Psychology Association defines optimism as the attitude that good things will happen; and that people’s wishes or aims will ultimately be fulfilled.
Optimists are people who anticipate positive outcomes, whether serendipitously; or through perseverance and effort, and who are confident of attaining desired goals.
Perspectives on Optimism
Scheier and Carver theorized the “disposition” towards optimism. They considered it a trait of an equilibrated personality, in time and various situations, that influences how individuals come to terms with present, past and future events.
Optimistic individuals are positive about events in daily life. Research has found positive correlations between optimism and physical/mental well-being. Researchers suggests that optimistic subjects tend to have more protective attitudes; are more resilient to stress; and are inclined to use more appropriate coping strategies.
Peterson and Seligman viewed optimism, in an “attributional style”. They believe that optimism is characterized by the tendency to believe that negative events are inconsistent, external and self-limiting.
Optimists believe that positive events are more stable and frequent than negative ones. They think that they can avoid problems in daily life; and prevent them from happening; and therefore they cope with stressful situations more successfully than pessimists.
A third perspective indicates that optimism is the consequence of a cognitive underestimation of risk; in other words, a “bias” for the Self. This bias reflects the optimist’s conviction that positive events are more likely to occur to him/herself; while negative events prevalently affect others.
Weinstein defined this phenomenon as “unrealistic optimism”. This Weinstein phenomenon is what I call schizophrenic optimism. I termed it schizophrenic optimism because it severely affects the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, and perceives reality.
Schizophrenic optimism can be likened to optimism bias; which is a systematic cognitive distortion of the consideration of one’s probability of encountering negative events. This bias has been defined as the result of the joint efforts of two mechanisms; the first of these is related to cognitive factors such as lack of information; and the poor critical insight of one’s cognitive skills. The second mechanism has a motivational nature, closely tied to defending one’s self-esteem and to defensive negation.
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