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Comparative Pessimism or Optimism: Depressed Mood, Risk-Taking, Social Utility and Desirability

  • Isabelle Milhabet (a1), Emmanuelle Le Barbenchon (a2), Laurent Cambon (a1) and Guylaine Molina (a3)

Abstract

Comparative optimism can be defined as a self-serving, asymmetric judgment of the future. It is often thought to be beneficial and socially accepted, whereas comparative pessimism is correlated with depression and socially rejected. Our goal was to examine the social acceptance of comparative optimism and the social rejection of comparative pessimism in two dimensions of social judgment, social desirability and social utility, considering the attributions of dysphoria and risk-taking potential (studies 2 and 3) on outlooks on the future. In three experiments, the participants assessed either one (study 1) or several (studies 2 and 3) fictional targets in two dimensions, social utility and social desirability. Targets exhibiting comparatively optimistic or pessimistic outlooks on the future were presented as non-depressed, depressed, or neither (control condition) (study 1); non-depressed or depressed (study 2); and non-depressed or in control condition (study 3). Two significant results were obtained: (1) social rejection of comparative pessimism in the social desirability dimension, which can be explained by its depressive feature; and (2) comparative optimism was socially accepted on the social utility dimension, which can be explained by the perception that comparatively optimistic individuals are potential risk-takers.

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Corresponding author

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Isabelle Milhabet. Laboratoire d’Anthropologie et de Psychologie Cognitives et Sociales. Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis. Pôle Universitaire Saint-Jean d’Angély. 24, Av. des Diables bleus. 06357. Nice Cedex 4. E-mail: milhabet@unice.fr

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