Posts Tagged ‘Optimism’

How The Brain Generates The Human Tendency For Optimism

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

A neural network that may generate the human tendency to be optimistic has been identified by researchers at New York University. As humans, we expect to live longer and be more successful than average, and we underestimate our likelihood of getting a divorce or having cancer. The results, reported in Nature, link the optimism bias to the same brain regions that show irregularities in depression.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the laboratory of NYU Professor Elizabeth Phelps. The lead author is Tali Sharot, now a post-doctoral fellow at University College London.

The NYU researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain function while participants thought of possible future life events (such as “winning an award” or “the end of a romantic relationship”).

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The Economic Power — And Pitfalls — Of Positive Thinking

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

People who are optimistic are more likely than others to display prudent financial behaviors, according to new research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

But too much optimism can be a problem: people who are extremely optimistic tend to have short planning horizons and act in ways that are generally not considered wise.

Manju Puri and David Robinson, professors of finance at Duke, report in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Financial Economics that the differences between optimists and extreme optimists provide important insights into the interaction between psychology and economic and lifestyle choices.

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Optimism Associated With Lowered Risk Of Dying From Heart Disease

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Patients who described themselves as highly optimistic had lower risks of all-cause death, and lower rates of cardiovascular death than those with high levels of pessimism, according to an article in the November issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to the article, major depression is a known risk factor for cardiovascular death. However, the relationship between optimism and death has not received as much attention.

Erik J. Giltay, M.D., Ph.D., of Psychiatric Center GGZ Delfland, Delft, the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed data from the Arnhem Elderly Study to test whether participants who are optimistic live longer than patients who are pessimistic.

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Why Conservatives Say They Are Happier Than Liberals

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

What’s the key to happiness? Liberals might tell you a hot latte, vivid expressions of diversity, and a copy of the New York Times. That doesn’t sound too bad, but in data mined for his new book, Gross National Happiness, Arthur Brooks, a professor of business and government at Syracuse University, finds that conservatives are twice as likely as liberals to say they’re happy. That’s not necessarily because of their politics but because they are statistically more likely to be married, go to church, and be optimistic about their future—boosting personal happiness. For liberals, the rates are lower. The author suggests that while the liberal equity agenda may be honorable, it exacts a personal toll. Indeed, happiness is full of surprises: Political ideologues are positively joyful—by making others miserable. Brooks explains to U.S. News the quirks and politics of happiness.

Why are liberals so bummed out?
Liberals are more likely to feel like victims and feel that collective action is the best way to make things happen. That may be right, but it’s a frustrating way to live. The Democratic Party is a coalition of oppressed groups. These are legitimate grievances in a lot of cases, but that does not make for a happy party.

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Happy Mediums

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008


There is a sharp spring wind rattling the window panes of Epinay school in Jarrow, South Tyneside, but the attention of the eight children in the class is firmly fixed on their teacher, Deborah Wilson. Up on the board is a cartoon of two boys discussing a girl they both like, with speech bubbles floating above their heads. Wilson is explaining to the children how the speech bubbles contain “self-talk” – the thoughts and conversations that go on in our heads. She is explaining how pessimistic thoughts can become self-fulfilling, while optimistic thoughts have more constructive outcomes. She encourages the children to challenge the negative thoughts, look for an alternative way of thinking, and be sure to put the situation into perspective.

It sounds much like common sense, and some would argue that it is a waste of precious timetable space. But Wilson believes that she has seen two-thirds of her class benefit from the programme she has been teaching to her year 7 pupils since the beginning of the year. “I’ve seen a change in the children,” she says. “We’ve got a culture of pessimism, and a lot of the problems today are because a lot of parents are like overgrown children. What I’m teaching is what the wise man of the community might be doing.”

What brought the issue into sharp focus for Wilson was her realisation on a recent trip to a school in South Africa that while the children in South Tyneside were considerable better off materially, the children in South Africa seemed happier.

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The power and pitfalls of positive thinking

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

A quarter of a century ago (I’ve always wanted to say that), when I was a young engineer with Texas Instruments, I had a manager named Dick Carroll. Dick was a big guy who looked a lot like Mr. Clean without the eyebrows.

One day, I was working on a drafting table in a large, open bay, when Dick walked up and started talking about how great his sex life was. That was more information than I needed to know, but I held my tongue. Conversations with the big boss were always precious, regardless of how they began.

On this occasion, Dick’s upbeat demeanor so contrasted with how crappy I felt that morning – how I felt every morning, in fact – that, instead of asking what middle-aged, wrinkly sex was like, I asked how he always managed to be so optimistic.

That’s when Dick explained the power of positive thinking to me. In a nutshell, when you whine and complain, you annoy people and they avoid you like the plague. When you’re positive and optimistic, that attracts people and opportunities.

The concept wasn’t new; the book by Norman Vincent Peale was originally published in 1952. But it was new to me.

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Looking for happiness? Try Sydney

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

It might come as a surprise if you’re struggling with the mortgage, the smog or the morning commute, but Sydney is apparently associated with the word “happiness”.

A global survey of urban lifestyle trends in 14 cities interviewed 8500 people, 630 who live in Sydney.

Those residents said Sydney was one of the world’s greatest cities, and a “pleasant, clean and charming” place to live.

In fact, the harbour city was ranked among the top three of the world’s “easy to live” cities, praised for low levels of population density and closeness to nature, with residents reporting they are optimistic and not very stressed.

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