Cade Massey on Optimism
We like to enter important situations — a romantic relationship, say, or a new job — with a sense of optimism about how they will turn out. But once we start to get results, do we adjust our expectations, and our actions, accordingly?
Cade Massey, assistant professor of organizational behavior, has done a series of studies examining how optimistic people are about things that they care about, and whether that optimism persists once they start to get feedback.
In one such study, Massey and his collaborators surveyed a group of students as they entered an MBA program and again at the beginning of each quarter, asking them to predict their performance in the classroom. The study found that the students were optimistic about their grades initially, and that optimism persisted — even after a year of feedback, they continued to believe that they would do better than they actually did.
Another study tracked the expectations of football fans about their favorite teams over the course of the season. Again, the result was that optimism persisted, even in the face of the reality.