Optimism Research

There is a lot of international and local research that supports the importance of optimism. Our ‘Think Tank’ partners at The Centre for Optimism, collate this research and are constantly updating the resources around optimism.

Here are a range of research papers on optimism:

1. Oregon State: Individuals are more optimistic about their own political parties or sports teams than others

People tend to be irrationally optimistic about the future success of their sports team or political party, while supporters of their rivals hold similar overly positive views about the performance of their own group, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

“People hold biases about their own groups that lead them to believe good things are more likely for their team or party,” said Colleen Bee, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Business and one of the paper’s authors. “But the rival group also believes this about their team or party. These distorted and diametrically opposed points of view can lead to tension among rival groups, as we see in today’s political and sports worlds.”

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2. New Research reveals the benefits of develop a more positive attitude

It’s the chorus of every happy song, the lesson from the lips of every purported guru, and the policy of every puppet on kids’ TV shows: Be positive. Easier said than done, of course. One need only tune into the news for 60 seconds to determine that there is little hope for a better world in 2020.

However, research from Queendom.com reveals that developing a more positive attitude – not the “Pollyanna flying on a unicorn” kind of optimism – has a number of benefits, including better emotional health, higher self-esteem, and a happier life in general.

Analyzing data from 2,933 people who took the Big Five Personality Test, Queendom researchers compared the personality, lifestyle, and experiences of people with a positive attitude to their more negative counterparts.

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3. Afro-Optimism on the Rise: Ichikowitz Family Foundation

The African Youth Survey 2020 reveals a rising Afro-Optimism among the continent’s youth driven by a strong sense of individual responsibility, a post-colonial mindset, entrepreneurialism, and confidence in a shared African identity.

Africa’s youth believe they can solve problems collaboratively, and are hopeful of fighting corruption, achieving peace and improving their personal living conditions.

These findings, which are in stark contrast with global stereotypes and outdated narratives of a hopeless continent, were unveiled by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a leading African foundation encouraging active citizenship across the continent.

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4. Student Voices of America Survey reveals overwhelming optimism and hope

A survey of more than 2,000 American college and high school students, the “Student Voices of America Survey” conducted by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), reveals overwhelming optimism and hope.

Strikingly, more than 80% of the 2000 respondents stated being “Very” or “Pretty” hopeful about the health of their family and friends (82%), their ability to achieve a college education (94%), graduate on time (86%), and secure a job (83%). 

When asked how they would feel if their schools were still online in the fall, a third of the students (32%) said they would rather not attend school. Roughly half (53%) said they prefer in-person classes but could deal with e-learning.

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5. Europeans are personally optimistic, but pessimistic about their own country

Gütersloh (Germany), 28 May 2020. How optimistic or pessimistic do people in the European Union view their personal future and the future of their country? How does this differ between EU member states? And how do these basic attitudes relate to party-political preferences? These questions are answered by the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s new eupinions study “The Optimism Paradox”.

The key finding: 58 percent of respondents in the EU27 are optimistic about their personal future. At the same time, however, they are pessimistic about their country’s future.

This optimism paradox applies – albeit to varying degrees – in all EU member states. The human tendency to trust in one’s own strength more than in that of society has political implications that can be clearly observed, particularly during the corona pandemic.

“The Germans stand out for their high level of trust in their own strength, while remaining particularly despondent about Germany’s future,” says Isabell Hoffmann, Europe expert at the Bertelsmann Foundation and head of the “eupinions” project.

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6. Michigan State University Study shows humans are optimists for most of life

Is middle age really the “golden age” when people are the most optimistic in life as earlier research has indicated and as I quote in my speeches?

Researchers from Michigan State University led one of the largest studies of its kind to determine how optimistic people are in life and when as well as how major life events affect how optimistic they are about the future.

“We found that optimism continued to increase throughout young adulthood, seemed to steadily plateau and then decline into older adulthood,” said William Chopik, MSU assistant professor of psychology and lead author. “Even people with fairly bad circumstances, who have had tough things happen in their lives, look to their futures and life ahead and felt optimistic.”

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7. Why living in the future, rather than the past, is key to coping with lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a tough year for people across the globe, with billions facing at least one lockdown. And it’s not over – there may be further lockdowns needed in the new year. Luckily, researchers have been busy studying what effect they have – and how best to cope.

Lockdowns are stressful because they create uncertainty, fear and social isolation. Because the present becomes anxious and boring, and the future becomes elusive (when will this end?), many people cope by looking back in time and recalling memories of things that we used to be able to do. Now our new study, due to be published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, has found that this often fails to make us feel better.

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