Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Optimism Isn't Always Healthy

Date:
December 7, 2007
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
People are generally optimistic, believing they'll do better in the future than they've done in the past. This time around, I'll actually use that gym membership. I'm sticking to the diet this time. Now is the time to start saving for a down payment on a house. However, a new study reveals that this "optimism bias" can lead us to make immediate choices that go against our long-term goals.

People are generally optimistic, believing they'll do better in the future than they've done in the past. This time around, I'll actually use that gym membership. I'm sticking to the diet this time. Now is the time to start saving for a down payment on a house. However, a new study reveals that this "optimism bias" can lead us to make immediate choices that go against our long-term goals.

Ying Zhang, Ayelet Fishbach (both of the University of Chicago), and Ravi Dhar (Yale University) identify how different mindsets work in conjunction with an optimistic attitude. They found that when people think about the goal in terms of progress, they are more likely to make a detrimental decision -- such as eating an unhealthy snack. However, when people focus on commitment to a goal, they are more likely to choose an action consistent with its attainment.

"For example, when [a] workout is framed as progress toward the goal of being healthy, going to the gym elicits the perception of partial goal attainment and suggests that it is justified to enjoy a tasty but fatty cake," the researchers explain. "In contrast, when [a] workout is framed as commitment to the goal of being healthy, going to the gym signals being healthy is important and thus suggests that one should refrain from the tasty but fatty cake to ensure the final goal can be attained."

In the first study, the researchers asked one group of participants to indicate how often they went to the gym last year. Another group was asked to predict how often they expected to go to the gym next year -- a yet-to-be-achieved goal. Those who were asked to think about exercise as a future endeavor were more likely to take a bottle of spring water over a can of sugared soda than those who were asked to think about the exercise they had already completed.

Similarly, in another experiment, participants were asked to visualize and write about either the process or completion of a gym workout session, a manipulation of the optimism bias. Then, participants were asked to estimate the duration of their next workout and to complete a survey that measured their interest in healthy foods.

"Relatively little is understood about how thinking optimistically about future goal pursuit can impact the immediate decision to pursue the ongoing goal, and what the direction of the impact would be," the researchers write. "Accordingly, this research suggests that marketers should consider not only the tradeoffs among the alternatives when making a choice, but also the relationship of this choice to past or future choices."

Ying Zhang, Ayelet Fishbach, and Ravi Dhar, "When Thinking Beats Doing: The Role of Optimistic Expectations in Goal-Based Choice." Journal of Consumer Research: December 2007.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Optimism Isn't Always Healthy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071204133733.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2007, December 7). Optimism Isn't Always Healthy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071204133733.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Optimism Isn't Always Healthy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071204133733.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins