Optimism without Illusion: The Impact of Experience on Expectations
15 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 10, 2008
Whether judgment and decision making biases improve with experience remains an important and contentious question. Positive illusions, for example, have been documented extensively, but virtually always in single-shot settings. To what extent do these illusions persist over time? And what factors influence their persistence? We suggest that dispositional optimism plays an important but surprising role. Building on the link between optimism and positive coping, we suggest that, given experience, dispositional optimists have fewer positive illusions than pessimists. We test this hypothesis in a longitudinal study of graduate students. Initially we find that optimists' expectations about their grades are more positively biased than pessimists'. However, the impact of experience is quite different for optimists than pessimists-optimists' positive illusions decline over time while pessimists' increase. Consequently, by year's end the pattern is fully reversed: optimists have fewer positive illusions than do pessimists.
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