Optimism and Physical Illness Grace Stephenson and Victoria Leedy Hanover College
Dispositional Optimism • The expectation of positive outcomes (Scheier and Carver, 1982) Optimism
Positive association between optimism and reduced cardiovascular illness • Boehm and Kubzansky (2012) • Dispositional optimism is associated with a faster rate of recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery • Scheier et al. (1989) Correlational research
Optimism measured at one point in time is related to CVD and CVD-related mortality years later even after controlling for CVD risk factors and depression. • Giltay et al. (2004) • Giltay et al. (2006) • Tindle et al. (2009) Optimism and cardiovascular health
The Best Possible Self: a manipulation of optimism through writing exercises • King (2001) • An observed sustained increase in optimism from the BPS intervention • Meevissen et al. (2011) A manipulation of optimism
How does optimism provide protection against illness? • Elevates positive affect • King & Burton (2009) A Possible mediator
1. Participants in BPS condition will show a significant increase in optimism and a decrease in illness. This decrease in illness will be greater than the decrease experienced by participants in the CE condition. 2. Participants in the CE condition will show a significant decrease in illness. 3. Participants in the Control Condition will experience neither an increase in optimism or a decrease in illness. hypotheses
Total: 31 Gender Male- 19% Female- 81% Ethnicity Caucasian- 77% African-American- 6% African – 10% Unknown – 6% participants • Per Condition: • BPS- 52% • Challenge- 23% • Control- 25% • Age • 18-23 years old
Revised Life Orientation Test (LOT-R) • to measure dispositional optimism • Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994 • Examples: • “I rarely count on good things happening to me” • “It’s important for me to keep busy” • “Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad” • 1-4 Likert scale Materials
PILL Scale • to measure self-reported illness • Pennebaker, 1982; Pennebaker & Beall, 1986 • Examples: • Running nose • Indigestion • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping • 1-4 Likert scale materials
Communicated through email • Participants randomly assigned to one of three conditions: • BPS, Challenging Event, Control • Subjects completed baseline questionnaires: • Optimism Scale procedure
Participants wrote every day for 4 consecutive days Every week thereafter for 3 weeks, participants completed optimism and illness scales Procedure, cont.
BPS Writing Prompt • Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined. • King, 2001 Procedure, cont.
Challenging Event Writing Prompt • Looking back over your entire life, please identify and describe what you now consider to be the greatest single challenge you have faced in your life. What is or was the challenge or problem? How did the challenge or problem develop? How did you address or deal with this challenge or problem? What is the significance of this challenge or problem in your own life story? • (McAdams, 2008) Procedure cont.
Control Writing Prompt • Write about what you did today. Go into as much detail about your activities as possible. Do not focus on your emotional experience, but rather the sequence of events. As you write, do not worry about punctuation and grammar. • King, 2001 Procedure cont.
Participants in BPS condition will show a significant increase in optimism and a decrease in illness. Discussion
Discussion • Participants in the CE condition will show a significant decrease in illness.
Discussion • Participants in the Control Condition will experience neither an increase in optimism nor a decrease in illness.
Lack of participants • Unequal participants among conditions • Lack of controlled environment • Deviation from schedule limitations
Compare hand written and typed responses Only conducted in controlled environment Different age groups People who have recovered from life-threatening illness For Additional Research
Self-efficacy: belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to produce given attainments Shift from biomedical model to more biopsychosocial model over previous years Many impairments today can be eliminated by the individual because they are choices Introduction, cont.
BPS: 24% Challenge: 22% Control: 33% Drop out rate