Optimist, pessimist, or realist: Study Looks At Advantages & Disadvantages Of Different Outlooks

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A study by PsychTests.com reveals that while extreme optimists may sometimes have their heads in the clouds, pessimists aren’t necessarily conscientious and may have the potential to be a little reckless.

Optimism with a good mix of realism is ideal.

While optimists, realists, and pessimists each have their strengths and weaknesses, optimists tend to fare better.

The best approach to life would be to have the positive attitude of an optimist, but the practical sensibility of a realist.

Perpetual Pollyannas are often viewed as airy, naïve, and even foolhardy. In fact, at least some research studies have highlighted the potential pitfalls of an extremely optimistic attitude, including a propensity to underestimate health hazards and even a tendency toward narcissism. Pessimists, on the other hand, are often painted as melancholic and cynical, but also excessively vigilant. Then there are the realists, said to possess the best of both worlds. In terms of which outlook has the most advantages, research from PsychTests indicates that optimists still come out on top.

Analyzing data from 8,933 people who took PsychTests’ Happiness Test, researchers divided the sample into three groups: Optimists, Realists, and Pessimists. According to PsychTests’ study, here is where they differ:

Able to find the good in even the most disagreeable of people

  •     69% of optimists
  •     39% of realists
  •     19% of pessimists

Able to find the silver lining in bad situations

  •     84% of optimists
  •     43% of realists
  •     11% of pessimists

Believe that nothing can be learned from failure

  •     11% of optimists
  •     6% of realists
  •     27% of pessimists

Believe they can handle whatever challenges and obstacles life throws at them

  •     90% of optimists
  •     65% of realists
  •     18% of pessimists

Refuse to give up even when life gets tough

  •     85% of optimists
  •     64% of realists
  •     25% of pessimists

Cope well with stress

  •     65% of optimists
  •     43% of realists
  •     19% of pessimists

Believe in the importance of maintaining a sense of humor

  •     94% of optimists
  •     84% of realists
  •     46% of pessimists

Approach a problem by looking at it from different angles

  •     85% of optimists
  •     62% of realists
  •     26% of pessimists

More likely to keep their problems to themselves rather than seek help

  •     38% of optimists
  •     48% of realists
  •     73% of pessimists

Satisfied with their personal relationships

  •     86% of optimists
  •     68% of realists
  •     28% of pessimists

Often experience a sense of loneliness

  •     11% of optimists
  •     29% of realists
  •     81% of pessimists

In good physical health

  •     84% of optimists
  •     68% of realists
  •     35% of pessimists

On the one hand, some optimists can be risk-takers, even to the point of being a little reckless. For example, PsychTests’ study reveals that:

  •     19% of optimists don’t think it’s important to plan ahead when taking a risk they’ve taken before (compared to 15% of realists and 27% of pessimists).
  •     41% of optimists said that they refuse to take problems too seriously (compared to 20% of realists and 18% of pessimists).
  •     32% of optimists believe that if they complete a task carefully, there is no need to check their work to make sure there are no errors (compared to 28% of realists and 28% of pessimists).
  •     44% of optimists believe that their likelihood of being diagnosed with a serious illness is low (compared to 31% of realists and 21% of pessimists).

In terms of tendencies toward reckless behavior in pessimists, PsychTests’ study also reveals that, surprisingly, not all pessimists live up to their supposedly cautious nature:

  •     Only 56% of pessimists ask other people for advice before making an important or risky decision (compared to 59% of optimists and 63% of realists).
  •     25% of pessimists believe that it’s better to leave problems alone, because they may end up resolving themselves (compared to 15% of optimists and 10% of realists).
  •     23% of pessimists would quit their job without lining up another one (compared to 18% of optimists and 15% of realists).
  •     Only 55% of pessimists wear a seatbelt every time they are in a car (compared to 58% of realists and 61% of optimists).

“Realists have the ability to see both the good and the bad, the possibilities and the risks,” explains Dr. Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “This is often considered the ‘smartest’ outlook, because a realist will plan for the worst but hope for the best. This doesn’t mean, however, that all optimists are clueless and reckless. Our research has shown that even those who always look on the bright side of life are not oblivious to the darkness. They recognize that life can be filled with trials and tribulations…they just hold onto the hope that one day, things will get better. And while it is true that some optimists can display a sense of invincibility, our research shows that even pessimists can be foolhardy, and sometimes even more than optimists. The bottom line is, when it comes to dealing with life’s ups and downs and overall sense of contentment, optimists are more likely to thrive. Taking all things into consideration, we feel the best approach to life would be to have the positive attitude of an optimist, but the practical sensibility of a realist.”

Are you an optimist, pessimist, or realist? Find out https://testyourself.psychtests.com/testid/2114

Professional users can request a free demo for this or any other assessments from ARCH Profile’s extensive battery: http://hrtests.archprofile.com/testdrive_gen_1

To learn more about psychological testing, download this free eBook: http://hrtests.archprofile.com/personality-tests-in-hr

About PsychTests AIM Inc.
PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see ARCHProfile.com). The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

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Ilona Jerabek
PsychTests AIM Inc.
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