Friday, March 07, 2014

Optimism correlates with poor results

Richtel points to work by Sevincer et al. that makes the counter-intuitive observation that optimistic language in newspaper articles and presidential addresses is a predictor of poor economic performance. This actually is consonant with research that has shown that fantasies not tempered by realistic assessment of challenges are less likely to yield results. (People who fantasize about the success of their with control program are less likely to loose pounds). Perhaps people who fantasize an imaged outcome imagine that obtaining it will be easy, and thus work less hard. More sober assessment yields better results.
Previous research has shown that positive thinking, in the form of fantasies about an idealized future, predicts low effort and poor performance. In the studies reported here, we used computerized content analysis of historical documents to investigate the relation between positive thinking about the future and economic development. During the financial crisis from 2007 to 2009, the more weekly newspaper articles in the economy page of USA Today contained positive thinking about the future, the more the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined in the subsequent week and 1 month later. In addition, between the New Deal era and the present time, the more presidential inaugural addresses contained positive thinking about the future, the more the gross domestic product and the employment rate declined in the presidents’ subsequent tenures. These counterintuitive findings may help reveal the psychological processes that contribute to an economic crisis.

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