Having Realistic Expectations Could Make You Happier Than Being Over-Optimistic – The British Psychological Society Research Digest – 2020-07-28

There are fairly good arguments for optimism and pessimism both. Optimists, who see the best in everything, are likely to have a sunnier disposition; pessimists, on the other hand, would argue that their negative expectations never leave them disappointed when the worst actually happens.

But in the end, it might be realists who win out. According to a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, being realistic about your life outcomes is likely to make you happier than overestimating them.

David de Meza from the London School of Economics and Chris Dawson from the University of Bath examined data from 1,601 individuals who took part in the British Household Panel Survey between 1991 and 2009. This longitudinal survey covers a range of topics including health, finances, household composition and more.

The team looked first at unrealistic optimism. Unlike optimism, this isn’t simply a belief that something good might happen, but an “excessive belief in the probability of good realisations” that is so strong you are likely to make mistakes in your predictions. To measure levels of unrealistic optimism, two questions were pulled out of the survey: “how do you think you will be financially a year from now?” and “would you say that you are better off, worse off or the same financially than you were a year ago?”. Comparing these expectations year on year with participants’ actual financial situation was the basis for measuring optimism.

Read more here.