An Analysis of Optimism and Emotional Processing in University Students
Authors:Lauren Gih, Lauren Walker
Mentor:Kimmy Kee-Rose, Professor of Psychology, California State University, Channel Islands
Research has demonstrated that optimistic people are more healthy and successful in school, with their careers, and daily social functioning. Yet the fundamental questions about the nature and scope of optimism are not fully known. The current ongoing study compares 39 undergraduate students with higher levels of optimism versus 28 students with lower levels on specific aspects of emotional processing (i.e., positive affect, negative affect, emotional creativity, emotional identification, and emotional arousal). All participants completed the following test battery: Revised Life Orientation Test for assessing optimism, Positive and Negative Affect Scale, and Emotional Creativity Inventory. Emotional identification and emotional arousal were assessed using 21 images (pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant) selected from the International Affective Picture System and rated using the Self Assessment Manikin Scale. A series of t-tests indicated that individuals with higher levels of optimism reported significantly more positive affect (t(65)=-3.74, p=.001, Cohen’s d= 0.89) and less negative affect (t(65)=2.13, p=.037, Cohen’s d= 0.80) compared to their counterparts with lower levels. In addition, the higher levels of optimism group demonstrated more emotional creativity compared to the lower levels of optimism sample, t(65)=-2.07, p=.043, Cohen’s d= 0.52. No significant group differences were found between those who displayed higher levels of optimism versus their counterparts with lower levels for emotional valence and arousal. Findings from this study may potentially expand our understanding of the functional role of optimism in our everyday life.