If At First You Don't Succeed... What Makes You Try Again?
Optimists have better outcomes than pessimists across a variety of situations (Andersson,
1996; Scheier and Carver, 1992). The underlying assumption for these differences is that
because optimists have positive expectancies for future events, they persist longer. Greater
persistence, in turn, leads to the more frequent experience of desired outcomes. In the
present study, we hypothesized that situational factors will also play a role in persistence.
Specifically, when individuals believe that it is important to perform well on a given task,
they will persist longer than if they believe the task is unimportant. To investigate the role
of these variables, both optimists and pessimists were given an unsolvable task for which
we manipulated the perceived importance of the task. We predicted a main effect for
optimism, such that optimists would persist longer than pessimists. In addition, we
predicted a main effect for level of task importance, such that persistence would be longer
for those in the high importance of task condition. Lastly, we examined the possibility of
an interaction between the two variables. Results and implications will be discussed.