Optimism is associated with higher cognitive abilities


Researchers were interested in investigating the associations of dispositional optimism and pessimism with cognitive abilities in adulthood. They found that young adults with higher dispositional optimism and lower pessimism had higher reasoning skills and higher pessimism was related to lower scores on memory tests for middle-aged adults.

Previous research shows that optimism is related to positive health and wellbeing outcomes, whereas pessimism is associated with health-related risks and maladaptive behaviors. According to intellectual investment theories, it is suggested that personality traits can affect cognition abilities. For instance, joy promotes creativity and negative emotionality activates people’s thought-action repertoire to prepare them for quick decisions in threatening situations. People with optimistic views tend to pay attention to positive information and believe they are capable of influencing their lives. On the other hand, pessimists tend to believe life events are caused by external forces and their own influence is inferior.

I hadn’t thought of that. I was well aware that pessimists can and do create their own self-fulfilling prophecies. This leads to them to successfully justify their pessimistic demeaner. But, higher cognitive abilities for optimists? That’s very interesting…


9 thoughts on “Optimism is associated with higher cognitive abilities

  1. Me, I smell researcher bias. After all, are they not the bright ones and they are optimistic?

    And there goes that word ‘may’ again justified by the fact that the study cannot determine causal relationships. Even so, the title uses the word associated which implies causality in many people’s mind. And it is clear from the paper that they think that they have found causal relationship.

    Is this not how gender studies became a thing?

    And look at the other ‘papers’ published by this same entity. One of them even wades into coffee is good, coffee is bad. In this case, coffee may enhance neurocognitive function. They even have a paper on social injustice during arrests of Black civilians.

    Of course, I tend to be the pessimist when I look at the world today. At the same time, I am an optimist when it comes to my projects.

  2. Optimists and pessimists…..they left out the third group. REALISTS.

    • Yep! And who’s to say that an optimist is not a fool?

      A house of cards comes to mind.

  3. Is this the same group that periodically trots out a paper for wide media distribution saying that conservative people are less flexible in their minds than Leftists?

    One can only say that a study either states the obvious, in the case of this one linking optimism with higher cognitive ability and creativity, or it is wrong, as in the case linking conservative thought with flexibility in people’s mental outlook.

    • IIRC, the “conservative people are less flexible in their minds” study did not sort the “conservatives” by their actual position on the American political spectrum, but by whether they seemed to be fascists – which is a perversion of the left.

  4. Let’s see. Some published papers:

    -Conservative ideology is a robust and reliable predictor of antiscientific attitudes in the United States

    -Conservative Protestant men are just as sexually insecure as men of other religious affiliations

    -Conservatives’ propensity toward conspiracy thinking can be explained by a distrust in officials and paranoid thinking

    -Conservative Twitter users dominate the discussion of fake news about the coronavirus, study finds

    -American liberals and conservatives think as if from different cultures

    -Research on problem solving finds conservatives and liberals do think differently

    -Conservatives demonstrate more self control than liberals — and belief in free will plays key role

    Plus many more.

    What’s important to note is that the papers are using frequency, correlations and associations, yet the titles often suggest cause and effect. I would say that most of the papers are click bait.

  5. optimism is frequently expressed by those who have little experience with a bureaucracy. pessimists, on the other hand, tend to have too much experience with bureaucracy.

    Which leads me to think that optimism has little to do with cognitive function since it means that the person couldn’t learn from experience…

  6. We learned the hard way in construction. What Steve Rinella of Meateater fame said prefectly.
    “It’s OK to have the thoughts of a pessimist. As long as you always maintain the boots of an optimist.”
    Pessimism is just another way to look at a problem. But all problems are made to be solved. Or worked around. Get it done.
    I just feel sorry for people that don’t have the Holy Spirit to help them figure things out.
    Guz you’ll always know. When it’s over. You did something.

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