A quasi-experimental study was carried out to examine the relationships between unrealistic optimism and reality. Unrealistic optimism was operationalized as (1) pre-examination performance estimates and (2) comparative optimism, i.e., assessment of the likelihood that a number of positive and negative events would occur to self relative to the average student. It has been hypothesized that unrealistic optimism would be only moderately related to performance and would decrease under the impact of reality. The three intrusions of reality were temporal proximity of an exam, the actual exam score, and the difference between pre-examination prediction and the actual examination score. The data indicated that: (1) the two measures of unrealistic optimism were only weakly related to the level of performance and (2) optimistic performance estimates were positively associated with both the actual examination score and comparative optimism. Moreover, the data showed that participants lowered their pre-examination performance estimates as the exam neared. This effect was particularly strong in those participants who earlier provided unrealistically optimistic performance estimates. The occurrence of postexamination unrealistic pessimism suggests that biased estimates of own performance may reflect different stages of the coping process.
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”.