Power of positive thinking? Not for guys

Israeli study finds optimism helps women excel, causes men to underachieve.

By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN / THE MEDIA LINE
November 26, 2011 18:07
2 minute read.
Studying.

studying library man woman laptop 311. (photo credit: Stockbyte)

Positive thinking isn’t exactly the formula for good grades, that is if you’re a guy.

New research at an Israeli university shows that men who are overly optimistic tend to skip studying, thinking everything will work out, but are more likely to wind up with lower grades.

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Women, on the other hand, greatly benefit from optimism since they’re generally more responsible than men and hit the books even when they are confident they are ready for a test, according to a new study done at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“We were interested in looking into the question whether optimism is beneficial or not,” Tamar Icekson, a PhD student at the Department of Business Administration, told The Media Line.

“Surprisingly, we found that it was very beneficial for female students to be optimistic. However, their male counterparts didn’t benefit so much, on the contrary. We found that male students who scored high on the optimism scale got the lowest grades in class,” Icekson said.

Together with Oren Kaplan, a professor in Ben Gurion’s College of Management, the study focused on the comparative effects of positive emotions.

“It’s very controversial, but there are a lot of studies showing that men are generally more optimistic than women, for example, they tend to take more risks. They usually evaluate their successes higher. It might be due to the fact that men are more optimistic  But we see that there is an important difference between the two sexes here, because females usually are more what we call conscientious. They take care. They are more responsible for their studies,” Icekson said. 



The study was done by monitoring some 175 students where each participant’s optimism  was measured through the Life Orientation Test. Icekson explained that it asked questions like: “Usually things turn out for the best for me” or “I believe the sky’s the limit” or “I believe things will be better in the future.” Also, “If something can go wrong for me, it will.”

Icekson says that overly confident males might think “Hey instead of studying enough for a test, go out and have a barbecue the night before”

“Women have a lower self-esteem and so if they are not sure things will work out, then they study for the test,” she said.

While the study was done with Israeli students, Icekson said data they had from America showed little difference between optimism levels of the two cultures. Interestingly enough, men and women tend to get more optimistic as they grow older.

“There are several studies showing that getting older sometimes you are more optimistic, and your well-being is higher when you are older because maybe you know yourself better and you have better methods to cope with stress,” she said. 


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