APA assignment_1 - Sweeny 1 Running Head: The Costs of...

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Sweeny 1 Running Head: The Costs of Optimism The Costs of Optimism and the Benefits of Pessimism Kate Sweeny University of California, Riverside James A. Shepperd University of Florida
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Sweeny 2 ABSTRACT Research suggests that optimism feels good. But does it always feel good? We suggest that the benefits (and costs) of optimism and pessimism depend on their timing. A study of exam score estimates revealed that optimism has no relationship with affect immediately prior to feedback, in contrast to the common wisdom that optimism “feels good.” Furthermore, optimism has costs after feedback – participants who predicted higher scores prior to feedback felt worse after learning their scores. Finally, people are aware of the potential costs of optimism – participants who predicted higher scores prior to feedback also anticipated experiencing greater disappointment should they perform poorly. These findings suggest that people may proactively manage their expectations to avoid the costs optimism.
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Sweeny 3 Introduction Researchers have long championed the benefits of optimism, proclaiming that positive expectations can foster mental health and well being (see Shepperd, Carroll, & Sweeny, 2008 for a review). Intuitively, perhaps the greatest benefit of optimism is that it prompts positive affect. Expecting a rosy future feels good, whereas expecting a dire future feels bad (Mellers, B. A., Schwartz, A., Ho, Katty, & Ritov, I., 1997). It thus is not surprising that people recommend optimism for forthcoming outcomes (Armor, Massey, & Sackett, in press). Recent theorizing on bracing for bad news, however, suggests that the affective benefits of optimism may be limited. In the face of impending feedback, optimism is risky because it can be quickly disconfirmed. Should outcomes fall short of expectations, the downstream costs of optimism are negative affect and disappointment (Carroll, Sweeny, & Shepperd, 2006). Importantly, the upstream and downstream costs and benefits of optimism and pessimism have never been simultaneously tested. To our knowledge, no study has tested whether the affective benefits of unrealistic optimism prior to feedback come at the cost of greater negative affect after feedback. Likewise, no study has tested whether the affective costs of pessimism prior to feedback pay dividends of greater positive affect after feedback. Although a few studies have examined the immediate and downstream consequences of dispositional optimism (Sanna, 1996; Sanna & Chang, 2003) and optimistic goals (Galinsky, Mussweiler, & Medvec, 2002; Garland, 1983; Mento, Locke, & Klein, 1992), none has targeted people’s expectations at the moment of truth or the comparison between these expectations and actual performance. Moreover, the goal studies examined optimistic goals prior to performance. We explored the
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This note was uploaded on 11/10/2009 for the course PSYCHOLOGY 12 taught by Professor Sweeny during the Spring '09 term at UC Riverside.

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APA assignment_1 - Sweeny 1 Running Head: The Costs of...

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