Investigating the relationship between implicit and explicit measures of optimism, and examining changes in them using positive psychology interventions.
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AbstractOptimism has a multitude of benefits to individuals in the domains of physical health (Räikkönen & Chirag, 2019); it has also been associated with better performance, socially and academically (Solberg Nes, Evans, & Segerstrom, 2009), decreased stress and less likelihood to burnout (Chang, 2000), better mood, coping and stronger immunity in response to stress (Segerstorm, 1998), and increased problem solving (Chang, 1996). Currently, optimism has been defined in two main ways. Firstly, it has been defined as 'the global generalising tendency to believe that one will generally experience good versus bad outcomes in life' (Scheier & Carver, 1985; p.219). This suggests that optimists look on the bright side of life, whereas pessimists believe that if something can go wrong for them, it will. Secondly, optimism is conceptualised as a positive explanatory style; it concerns how they explain the event to themselves, either positive or negative. This optimistic or pessimistic thinking is reinforced daily through how we explain things to ourselves, relating to why good or bad things happen to us (Seligman, 2005). In the main, explicit measures have been used to measure optimism; however, explicit measures may be susceptible to several biases, such as social desirability. Implicit measures have been suggested to be able to overcome these biases (Greenwald, 1998). In this thesis, an implicit measure was created and assessed to overcome these biases. These implicit measures were compared to explicit measures to investigate how well they correlated. This thesis has three main aims; (a) to create an optimism implicit association test (IAT) to investigate the relationship between implicit and explicit measures of optimism. (b) to investigate the relationship between implicit and explicit measures of optimism, including associated changes when using positive psychology interventions. (c) to investigate if optimism is changeable over time. To address these aims, within the thesis, three studies and a systematic review were employed. Study 1 aimed to create a valid and reliable optimism implicit association task (IAT) and to also investigate the relationship between implicit and explicit measures of optimism. The study examined the relationship between implicit Visual Probe Task (VPT), IAT and explicit Life Orientation Test Revised (LOT-R). The findings in study 1 showed promising results for the reliability and validity of the IAT. However, no relationship was found between implicit and explicit optimism measures. Study 2 examined the factor structure of optimism, within both the optimism IAT and explicit questionnaire measures. The findings suggested that implicit and explicit optimism were separate factors and therefore, could be considered separate dimensions. A systematic review and meta-analysis explored optimism and positive psychology interventions in the workplace (using the PRISMA checklist). The systematic review revealed three studies that investigated randomised controlled trials (RCT) and whether positive psychology interventions (PPIs) increase optimism in the workplace. The meta-analysis found good homogeneity and a small to medium effect on optimism. This suggests that optimism in the workplace is malleable through PPIs. Study 3 used a pilot RCT to examine whether PPIs can change the implicit and explicit optimism. A working population were randomly assigned to kindness to self, kindness to others or control group. The findings suggest a preliminary effectiveness at increasing optimism. The overall conclusion from the three studies and systematic review suggested that optimism and pessimism are separate two-dimensional constructs. Additionally, the findings suggest that implicit and explicit measures are also separate constructs. Finally, the acts of kindness to self and others positive psychology interventions show potential to increase implicit and explicit optimism, and optimism is changeable over time.
CitationKirkman, A, Sheffield, D & Maratos, F. (2021). Investigating the relationship between implicit and explicit measures of optimism, and examining changes in them using positive psychology interventions.
PublisherUniversity of Derby
TypeThesis or dissertation
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