The Effects of Realistic and Unrealistic Optimism on Performance and Coping
Historically, optimism has been studied as a dichotomous variable. However, research has found that there are two types of optimists: cautious/realistic and unrealistic/cockeyed. A cautious/realistic optimist is defined as someone that has a good grip on reality, and a cockeyed/unrealistic optimist as someone that engages in self-delusion (Wallston, 1994). The purpose of the present study was to administer an intervention to students (N=67) to attempt to shift their perspective towards that of a cautious optimist, and to determine the effects of optimism on performance and coping. The study took place across four time points. As a whole, the intervention was not fully supported by the data, as the changes in optimism were not large enough to be statistically reliable. The data also did not support our hypothesis that level of optimism would predict a student’s exam grades. Coping behaviors were assessed before and after Exam 1 and Exam 2, and were markedly different, specifically after Exam 2. Poor performance on Exam 2 was associated with behavioral disengagement and denial, whereas positive performance on Exam 1 was associated with self-encouragement and sustain coping.