The Positive Side of Being a Pessimist
Pessimists May Be Better Gamblers
Feb. 6, 2004 -- It may be hard for pessimists to admit, but a
new study shows pessimism has its benefits.
Researchers found that a healthy dose of pessimism may come in
handy in many real-life situations where optimists may be overly hopeful.
For example, the study showed that pessimists tend to fare
better as gamblers and know when to cut their losses rather than let it roll.
Researchers say that kind of attitude may also pay off in other situations,
such as playing the stock market.
In the study, published in this month's issue of the
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers looked at the
effects of a person's disposition on their gambling behavior.
Three groups of college students were given a list of questions
to determine whether they were pessimistic or optimistic as well as assess
their attitudes about gambling. In a series of different tests, researchers
then had the students play several hands of blackjack and play a simulated slot
Throughout the tests, researchers found that optimists were
more likely to believe that they expected to win at gambling. This relationship
was even stronger in individuals who experienced gambling losses. This finding
was consistent with the researchers theory that the optimist would reframe a
negative event (gambling losses) into a positive -- the belief that they could
When asked about their experiences later, optimists were also
more likely to remember more wins than the pessimists.
Researchers found the greatest differences between the groups
emerged after losing.
"Our data show no difference in betting between optimists
and pessimists after winning. But optimists are more likely to persist in the
face of losses," says researcher Bryan Gibson, a social psychologist at
Central Michigan University, in a news release. "They're less ready to give
The study showed that pessimists were more likely to reduce
their bets if their past performance had been poor, but the optimists seemed
relatively unfazed by their losses.
Researchers say this study only looked at the effects of
optimism and pessimism on gambling, but their findings may apply to other
situations. For example, pessimists may have the advantage in situations where
resources and opportunities are limited, such as a down stock market, while
optimists may fare better in situations where persistence is rewarded in the
face of adversity.