Life and Value Orientations of Turkish University Students

Article excerpt

Optimism, which can be defined as the tendency to believe that one will generally experience good versus bad outcomes in life, has received greater attention in recent years (Scheier & Carver, 1987). The research carried out on optimism can be viewed as falling into three groups: psychological well-being, physical well-being, and coping. Findings have indicated that dispositional optimism is beneficial for physical and psychological well-being. Studies have revealed that dispositional optimism is an important predictor of the subjective well-being of patients in general (Scheier & Carver, 1992; Scheier et al., 1989). Optimism has proved to be a significant predictor of changes in perceived stress, depression, loneliness, and social support over time (Scheier & Carver, 1992). Optimism also has correlated positively with problem-focused coping, as optimists tend to use more problem-focused strategies than do pessimists (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989; Falkman & Lazarus, 1980; Scheier, Weintraub, & Carver, 1986). Further, optimists differ from pessimists in their stable coping tendencies (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub 1989).

On the whole, research on optimism indicates that a positive orientation toward life leads to managing difficult situations with less subjective stress and less negative impact on physical well-being. Optimists generally accept reality more readily and try to take active and constructive steps to solve their problems, whereas pessimists are more likely to engage in avoidance and tend to give up in their efforts to achieve goals (Scheier & Carver, 1992).

The concept of values can be defined as one's general beliefs about desirable and undesirable behavior and goals or end states (Feather, 1975, 1990, 1993; Rokeach, 1973). Values are assumed to be at the core of self-concept and to influence thought and action in many ways (Feather, 1990). They are assumed to transcend more specific attitudes toward objects and situations, but they influence the form that these attitudes take. They provide standards or criteria to evaluate actions and outcomes, to justify opinions and conduct, to plan and guide behavior, to decide between alternatives, to compare one's self with others, to engage in social interaction, and to present one's self to others (Feather, 1993, 1994; Rokeach, 1973). Values influence the way events and situations are construed, and they are not only cognitions but are linked to emotions. They have some stability, but the importance of particular values may change with life experiences and with the emergence of new roles and responsibilities (Feather, 1990, 1994; Rokeach, 1973, 1979; Schwartz, 1992).

The study of human values is important not only to the understanding of culture and socialization, but also to the understanding of the psychological makeup and life orientation of the individual (Feather, 1975; Lau, 1988; Rokeach, 1968, 1973). According to Rokeach (1973), there is a relationship between values and the global attitudes called personality dispositions. Personality dispositions are an expression or manifestation of terminal and instrumental values. Thus, optimism and pessimism as personality dispositions are expected to be associated with different value orientations.

The present study investigated the differences in value orientations of optimist and pessimist personality dispositions. It also examined the value structures of optimists and pessimists.

METHOD

Subjects

Subjects were 285 (144 female and 141 male) university students. Of these, 139 were drawn randomly from the social sciences (74 first-year students and 65 fourth-year students) and 146 were drawn randomly from engineering (78 first-year students and 68 fourth-year students). The mean age of the students was 20.5 years.

Instruments

Subjects were administered the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS; Rokeach, 1973) and the Life Orientation Test (LOT; Scheier & Carver, 1987). …