Optimism and Pessimism in Kuwaiti and Omani Undergraduates

By Alansari, Bader M.; Kazem, Ali M. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, April 20, 2008 | Go to article overview

Optimism and Pessimism in Kuwaiti and Omani Undergraduates


Alansari, Bader M., Kazem, Ali M., Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


In this study we investigated cultural differences and correlates of optimism and pessimism in Kuwaiti (n = 600) and Omani (n = 600) undergraduates. All respondents completed the Arabic Scale of Optimism and Pessimism (ASOP; Abdel-Khalek & Alansari, 1995), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II; Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996), and the Kuwait University Anxiety Scale (KUAS; Abdel-Khalek, 2000). The ASOP displayed good internal consistency, a meaningful factorial structure and interpretable factors in both countries. It was found that optimism correlated negatively with the above scales, while the correlations of pessimism were positive, indicating the convergent validity of the ASOP. The Kuwaiti mean score on optimism was significantly lower than the mean of their Omani counterparts, and no significant cultural differences were found for pessimism.

Keywords: optimism, pessimism, cross-cultural study, Kuwaiti students, Omani students.

The field of positive psychology, at the subjective level, is about positive subjective experience: well-being and satisfaction (past); flow, joy, the sensual pleasures, and happiness (present); and constructive cognitions about the future - optimism, hope, and faith. At the individual level it is about positive personal traits: the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future-mindedness, high talent, and wisdom (Seligman, 2005).

One of the main components of positive psychology is optimism. According to Scheier and Carver's (1985) dispositional model, optimism and pessimism, defined as generalized positive and negative outcome expectancies, represent the variables of individual differences that promote or abate psychological and physical adjustment. Optimism reflects a generalized outcome expectation that good things will happen, i.e., dispositional optimism, whereas pessimism refers to general expectancies that are bad (Scheier & Carver, 1993). Seligman (1991) has applied optimism and pessimism to the ways in which people explain events in their lives. An optimistic attributional or explanatory style is associated with higher levels of motivation, achievement and physical well-being and lower levels of depressive symptoms (Buchanan & Seligman, 1995).

Are optimism and pessimism representative of two opposite ends of the same continuum? By using the multi-measure approach, Chang, D'zurilla, and Maydeu-Olivares (1994) supported a two-dimensional model of optimism and pessimism. Moreover, Chang, Maydeu-Olivares, and D'zurilla (1997) found support for the bidimensionality of optimism and pessimism. The empirical support for the two constructs may be best conceptualized as independent or at least partially independent constructs (see Abdel-Khalek, 2005; Abdel-Khalek & Alansari, 1995; Abdel-Khalek & Lester, 2002,2006; Alansari, 2002-2003; Chang et al., 1994; Yahfoofi & Alansari, 2005). By and large, these two constructs represent two unipolar dimensions, that is, the opposite of optimism is the lack of optimism, which is distinguishable from the presence of pessimism (Marshall, Wortman, Kusulas, Hervig, & Vickers, 1992).

The relationship between optimism and pessimism and personality has elicited many diverse studies. Chang (1998) found that results did not provide strong support for an association between optimism and neuroticism, in other words, these traits are distinguishable. Pessimism was principally associated with neuroticism and negative affect, whereas optimism was primarily associated with extraversion and positive affect (Marshall et al., 1992). Andersson (1996), in a meta-analytic review, found that the most reliable association is a negative association between optimism and negative affect. Abdel-Khalek (1998a) found significant correlations between death anxiety and both optimism (negative) and pessimism (positive) among both sexes when testing Kuwaiti undergraduates. …

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