Charles S. Carver, Michael F. Scheier and Daniel Fulford

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

Second edition

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195187243
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

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Optimism is expecting good things to occur in one's life. Such positive expectations are associated with higher subjective well-being, even under conditions of stress or adversity. In contrast, pessimists respond to adversity with more intense negative feelings. There are also differences in the manner in which optimists and pessimists try to cope with adversity. Optimists tend to put the best face on the adversity, but they acknowledge its existence and its importance, and they try to do as much as possible to resolve whatever problems can be resolved. Pessimists are more likely to distance themselves from the problem and put off doing anything about it as long as possible. They are also more likely to give up trying, if things remain difficult. Some kinds of problem solution is proactive, engaged in before the problem arises. Optimists also tend to engage in such proactive efforts, including taking actions to minimize various kinds of health risks. Perhaps, as a consequence of these preventive steps, optimists also tend to have better health than pessimists. They seem to heal faster from wounds, and there is some evidence that when they are seriously ill they experience slower disease progression. It has been suggested that optimists sometimes are no better off than pessimists, and sometimes are worse off: that their confidence can get them into situations where it is difficult to cope effectively. Evidence of such negative effects of optimism does exist, but it is relatively sparse.

Keywords: confidence; coping; health; optimism; subjective well-being

Article.  6394 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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