235 The Bright Side of Pessimism

Based on research by Gibson, Bryan, and Sanbonmatsu, David M. (2004), written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.

Are you more of an optimist or a pessimist?

Someone who is an optimist is often hopeful and confident about the future while a pessimist is more likely to believe the worst will happen.

Psychologists from Central Michigan University and University of Utah conducted an experiment to better understand how these perceptions may influence someone’s gambling behavior. In their first study, they found that optimists were more likely than pessimists to have positive gambling expectations even following a loss. In their second study, the researchers noted that pessimists reduce the amount they bet after experiencing a poor outcome. This was not true for the optimists. Finally, their third study demonstrated that after losing, optimists reported remembering more close calls to winning than pessimists did. In conclusion, the three studies illustrated that optimists were more likely than pessimists to continue gambling after experiencing negative outcomes. Yet, the study’s optimists did not report that they engaged in more frequent gambling or suffered from heavier gambling losses; however, they may not remember them as big losses, but near wins.

Being optimistic has its benefits, but when gambling and taking risks, beware. Pessimistic thinking may help you save money while gambling!


Gibson, B., & Sanbonmatsu, D. M. (2004). Optimism, pessimism, and gambling: The downside of optimism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(2), 149-160.

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