Why being a pessimist is better than an optimist: the opinion of scientists

Is it possible that being a pessimist is not so bad in a world where optimism is diligently cultivated?

A real cult of optimism flourishes in modern society. The phrase "Well, why are you so pessimistic about life?" often sounds like a reproach, and the word "pessimist" has become a real stigma. But how true is the claim that being a pessimist is bad?

But an experiment conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, which involved more than 30, 000 respondents, showed very interesting results - namely, that optimism often prevents people from making deliberate and balanced decisions. Optimists overestimate their capabilities and in most cases hope for good luck. They often get involved in completely rash adventures, risking both themselves and their finances. And since the risk is not always justified, this leads to losses that optimists did not even count on, believing that they will always cope with everything.

British researchers came to a similar conclusion, and moreover, they concluded that in the brain of optimists there is a strong filtering of information related to the work of the brain area responsible for assessing risk and identifying errors. For optimists, this area is not so active, so they underestimate the risks and do not think about the negative consequences.

But pessimists, on the contrary, assess all the risks, and it is they who often have a plan B in case of the failure of plan A. They do not overestimate their capabilities and certainly will not once again get involved in a dubious adventure and risk anything. In particular, the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once said “We have become pessimists, because we know what a person is capable of, ” and there is a lot of truth in these words.

Another experiment was conducted in which participants solved various logical problems, but they were forced to think either strictly optimistic or strictly pessimistic. And the results showed that those people (not just optimists or pessimists) who thought in their usual way did the best. That is, if a pessimist was forced to think optimistically, he showed worse results than just a pessimist - and the same thing happened with optimists. That is, those who had to assess the situation differently from usual showed poor results. Thus, the result did not depend on how a person views the problem, but on whether or not he is comfortable with his worldview.

Most psychologists are inclined to believe that pessimism and optimism largely depend on temperament. That is, a sanguine person will most likely be an optimist, while a melancholic person, on the contrary, is prone to pessimism.

In any case, you should not divide people into "good" and "bad" just by their view of the world. Any worldview is good, if only it does not detach a person from reality. Sometimes you need to think about the good, but sometimes you also need to be a skeptic.