Optimism is a mental attitude or world view that interprets situations and events as being best (optimized), meaning that in some way for factors that may not be fully comprehended, the present moment is in an optimum state. The concept is typically extended to include the attitude of hope for future conditions unfolding as optimal as well. The more broad concept of optimism is the understanding that all of nature, past, present and future, operates by laws of optimization along the lines of Hamilton's principle of optimization in the realm of physics. This understanding, although criticized by counter views such as pessimism, idealism and realism, leads to a state of mind that believes everything is as it should be, and that the future will be as well. A common idiom used to illustrate optimism versus pessimism is a glass with water at the halfway point, where the optimist is said to see the glass as half full, but the pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The word is originally derived from the Latin optimum, meaning "best." Being optimistic, in the typical sense of the word, ultimately means one expects the best possible outcome from any given situation. This is usually referred to in psychology as dispositional optimism. Researchers sometimes operationalize the term differently depending on their research, however. For example, Martin Seligman and his fellow researchers define it in terms of explanatory style, which is based on the way one explains life events. As for any trait characteristic, there are several ways to evaluate optimism, such as various forms of the Life Orientation Test, for the original definition of optimism, or the Attributional Style Questionnaire designed to test optimism in terms of explanatory style. While the heritability of optimism is largely debatable, most researchers agree that it seems to be a biological trait to some small degree, but it is also thought that optimism has more to do withenvironmental factors, making it a largely learned trait. It has also been suggested that optimism could appear to be a hereditary trait because it is actually a manifestation of combined traits that are mostly heritable, like intelligence, temperament and alcoholism. Optimism may also be linked to health. -------------------------------------------------
Explanatory style is different, though related to, the more traditional, narrower definition of optimism. This broader concept is based on the theory that optimism and pessimism are drawn from the particular way people explain events. There are three dimensions within typical explanations, which include internal versus external, stable versus unstable, and global versus specific. Optimistic justifications toward negative experiences are attributed to factors outside the self (external), are not likely to occur consistently (unstable), and are limited specific life domains (specific). Positive experiences would be optimistically labeled as the opposite: internal, stable, global. There is much debate about the relationship between explanatory style and optimism. Some researchers argue that there is not much difference at all; optimism is just the lay term for what scientists call explanatory style. Others argue that explanatory style is exclusive to its concept and should not be interchangeable with optimism. It is generally thought that, though they should not be used interchangeably, dispositional optimism and explanatory style are at least marginally related. Ultimately, the problem is simply that more research must be done to either define a "bridge" or further differentiate between these concepts. -------------------------------------------------
Philosophers often link concept of optimism with the name of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who held that we live in the best of all possible worlds, or that God created a physical universe...