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Charles Martin-Krumm, PhD


What is Optimism and Does It Have an Impact on Our Life?



Optimism is what Christopher Peterson called a « Velcro Construct ». Everything sticks to it for reasons that are not always obvious (2006, p. 119). But what is exactly optimism? An illusion? Is there only one way to define it? What kind of effect does it have? Which processes is it involved in? Answering these questions will be the main target of this keynote. 

Optimism as a psychological construct will be defined according to two ways: a direct one and an indirect one. In the first conception, we will argue that Carver and Scheier’s dispositional optimism theoretical framework explains different kinds of effects on cognitive, affective or behavioural variables. Nevertheless, we will show that optimism is more complex than only a kind of optimism/pessimism continuum. The second conception of optimism, which is linked to the explanatory styles, will be presented. Some direct links will be explained in the fields of school, sports, workplace or health. Some indirect links have been indentified thanks to experimental or longitudinal designs. Some studies in the school context have highlighted how explanatory styles may be involved in processes, which predict rebound faculties after failure, or motivation. These elements are in accordance with the theoretical framework.

Does it mean that it is as simple as it looks like? Again, optimism according to the explanatory styles may reflect a more complex psychological construct than only an optimism/pessimism continuum as mentioned for dispositional optimism. Some previous researches have demonstrated that some persons showed high levels in both, optimism and pessimism, what is quite surprising according to these theoretical frameworks. This may explain why everything sticks to optimism. Maybe the reason is a definition which has to be more relevant, and which enables the expression of the human complexity. 

Experimental designs meant to test the effect of four profiles instead of two, in success and failure feedback conditions, should give more information to explain the effects of the styles on cognitive, affective, physiological, or behavioural variables, and how it may have an impact on our life.