Optimism and Pessimism

Stephen M. Schueller*, Martin E P Seligman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

22 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the link between pessimism and optimism and the onset and recurrence of depression. Optimistic individuals tend to be happier, more successful, and more resistant to a variety of mental disorders, including depression. Pessimists, on the other hand, worry about the future, doubt they will reach their goals, and expect the worst. Not surprisingly, pessimists are more likely to experience depression and the most pessimistic individuals experience the most severe episodes. Although optimism is commonly defined as expecting the best and looking to the positive side of life, there are two dominant modes of measurement: dispositional optimism and attributional style. Optimism is related to the onset of depression, the characteristics of depressive episodes, and the occurrence of subsequent episodes. The link between optimism and depression is best understood within the framework of cognitive theories of depression. Cognitive theories of depression posit that onset is caused by a maladaptive cognitive style. Depressogenic cognitions are a risk factor for depression in just the same way that smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer. Different optimism interventions that have been successful in preventing depression are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRisk Factors in Depression
PublisherElsevier Inc
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780080450780
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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