The study examined situational and individual (personality) determinants of unrealistic optimism and pessimism. Participants (112 university students) estimated at two points in time (a) two weeks before and (b) immediately after the exam their and the average student's likely grades. Unrealistic optimism (pessimism) was operationalized as a difference between (1) a person's predictions for the self and for the average student (comparative unrealistic optimism) and (2) a prediction for the self and the actual grade (accuracy of forecasts). The results revealed that participants were unrealistically optimistic in their predictions for themselves before the exam and unrealistically pessimistic after the exam; the situational factor did not affect predictions for an average student. Only moderate positive relation between unrealistic optimism and pessimism suggests that although the two constructs share some common variance, they are sufficiently different and may indicate different phases of the coping process. The second purpose of the study was to examine the relationships between unrealistic optimism and unrealistic pessimism, on the one hand, and the Big Five personality factors and dispositional optimism, on the other. The data indicated that both comparative unrealistic optimism and accuracy of optimistic forecasts were positively associated with dispositional optimism. Comparative unrealistic optimism was positively associated with Extraversion and Consciousness and negatively with Neuroticism. Accuracy of optimistic forecasts correlated positively only with Extraversion and negatively with Neuroticism
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.