Unrealistic Optimism Gender and Culture

Topics: Optimism, Pessimism, Optimism bias Pages: 8 (2608 words) Published: February 6, 2013
Several studies have been conducted to determine the influence that unrealistic optimism has over gender differences and culture. Unrealistic optimism is defined as the belief that positive (negative) events are more (less) likely to happen to one ’s self-versus others. Researchers have reported that both men and women from across cultures tend to be influenced by this bias. Nevertheless, they’ve found that Western cultures (such as Americans or Canadians) are identified by being independent and individualist, whereas Eastern cultures (such as Japanese) tend to focus on interdependence and collectivism. Given this basic traits, experimenters have discovered that Canadians tend to believe that positive events are more likely to happen to them, whereas Japanese tend to believe that they are more likely to experience negative events. In the other hand, both men and women have revealed to be unrealistically optimistic. However, men have reported higher levels of unrealistic bias compared to women around the world. Introduction

Unrealistic optimism or optimistic bias is defined as the tendency for people to believe that they are more likely to experience positive events and less likely to experience negative events compared to others. (Weinsten, 1980). Taylor and Brown stated that almost 121 studies have demonstrated this phenomenon. Various findings have confirmed that American college students think that they were more likely than others to experience positive events such as getting a good job or forming a family. In opposition, most people think that they are less likely than others of experiencing negative events such as having a drinking problem or being fired from a job. The purpose of this essay is to determine the extent to which cultural and gender differences are influenced by unrealistic optimism. Unrealistic Optimism

Unrealistic optimism could cause a negative effect over an individual’s life as it can distort their perception about reality. However, unrealistic optimism has also shown favorable effects over and individual’s well-being. This bias is significantly important because it can impact people’s intentions to engage in preventive behaviors. In addition, it can also affect the way in which people process information to update their beliefs. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that optimistic bias appears to be motivated by threat. In other words, if a negative future event is perceived to be particularly serious, it’s more likely that the person will feel invulnerable toward that particular event. Western vs. Eastern Cultures

The tendency of believing that one has better-than-average attributes has been researched and discussed lately. Researchers have found that people from Western cultures tend to be more unrealistically optimistic than people from Eastern cultures when comparing their chances of experiencing negative events to the average’s person. Markys and Kitayama stated that this bias influences every culture in a different way because they emphasize to tasks relevant to everyday life in different forms; independence and interdependence. Additionally, they stated that the cultures that have developed an independent construal of self are characterized by having an autonomous sense of self that’s different from others and the environment, whereas cultures that have fostered an interdependent construal of self are mutually reliant on each other and don’t attribute their individuality and uniqueness separately from the social world. Study #1 - Cultural differences in unrealistic optimism and pessimism For this particular study participants form Japan and the United States responded to questions about negative health events that varied in event frequency and severity. The overall purpose of this study was to examine cultural differences in unrealistic optimism and pessimism through the direct versus the indirect method. The direct method involved a question in which participants...
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