Optimism, Agency, and Success

Authors
Lisa Bortolotti
University of Birmingham
Abstract
Does optimism lead to success? Friends of optimism argue that positive beliefs about ourselves and our future contribute to fitness and mental health, and are correlated with good functioning, productivity, resilience, and pro-social behaviour. Sceptics, instead, claim that when we are optimistic we fail to react constructively to negative feedback, and put ourselves at risk because we underestimate threats. Thus, it is controversial whether optimistic beliefs are conducive to success, intended as the fulfilment of our goals in a given domain. According to the traditional view, optimistic beliefs lead to success when they do not involve any distortion of reality, and according to the trade-off view, they lead to success when they involve a distortion of reality, but a small one. Based on the literature about positive illusions in the perception of romantic partners and in the assessment of future health prospects, I suggest that optimistic beliefs lead to goal attainment when they support agency by contributing to the sense that we are competent and efficacious agents and that our goals are both desirable and attainable.
Keywords optimism  agency  success  rationality  bias
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Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1007/s10677-018-9894-6
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References found in this work BETA

The Evolution of Misbelief.Ryan T. McKay & Daniel C. Dennett - 2009 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (6):493.
Forming Beliefs: Why Valence Matters.Tali Sharot & Neil Garrett - 2016 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 20 (1):25-33.

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