International Optimism: Correlates and Consequences of Dispositional Optimism across 61 Countries

Baranski, E. et al. (2020). “International Optimism: Correlates and Consequences of Dispositional Optimism across 61 Countries”. Journal of Personality. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12582

Objective

The current exploratory study sought to examine dispositional optimism, or the general expectation for positive outcomes, around the world.

Method

Dispositional optimism and possible correlates were assessed across 61 countries (N = 15,185; mean age = 21.92; 77% female). Mean-level differences in optimism were computed along with their relationships with individual and country-level variables.

Results

Worldwide, mean optimism levels were above the midpoint of the scale. Perhaps surprisingly, country-level optimism was negatively related to gross domestic product per capita, population density, and democratic norms and positively related to income inequality and perceived corruption. However, country-level optimism was positively related to projected economic improvement. Individual-level optimism was positively related to individual well-being within every country, although this relationship was less strong in countries with challenging economic and social circumstances.

Conclusions

While individuals around the world are generally optimistic, societal characteristics appear to affect the degree to which their optimism is associated with psychological well-being, sometimes in seemingly anomalous ways.

Self-estimates of abilities are a better reflection of individuals’ personality traits than of their abilities and are also strong predictors of professional interests

Neubauer, A.C. & Hofer, G. (2021). „Self-estimates of abilities are a better reflection of individuals’ personality traits than of their abilities and are also strong predictors of professional interests”. Personality and Individual Differenceshttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.109850

In several meta-analyses, self-estimates of abilities have been shown to correlate surprisingly low with individuals’ real (i.e., psychometrically assessed) abilities. We recently confirmed this in a study where we investigated the accuracy of self- and peer-estimates of six central abilities (verbal, numerical, spatial intelligence, interpersonal and intrapersonal competence, creative/divergent thinking). Here, we describe two studies: In study 1, we first investigated, to which extent self-estimates of adolescents’ central abilities can be predicted from three sources: relevant school grades, the pertinent psychometric ability itself, and personality (big five traits and narcissism). We found that self-estimates are a stronger reflection of the individuals’ personality than their abilities per se. Second, we wanted to assess to what degree (professional) interests, which might guide career decisions in adolescents/young adults, are predicted by self-estimated and psychometrically assessed abilities. We found that professional interests are mostly a function of self-estimates and not of ‘true’ abilities, a finding that we replicated in study 2 with young adults. Given the strong associations between self-estimates and personality and past findings showing that abilities are better predictors of professional success than personality traits are, this might be non-optimal.

Who in the world is trying to change their personality traits?

Baranski, E., Gardiner, G., Lee, D., Members of the International Situations Project, Funder, D. (in press).  Who in the world is trying to change their personality traits? Volitional personality change among college students in 56 countries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Recent research conducted largely in the US suggests that most people would like to change one or more of their personality traits. Yet almost no research has investigated the degree to which and in what ways volitional personality change (VPC), or individuals’ active efforts towards personality change, might be common around the world. Through a custom-built website, 13,278college student participants from 56 countries using 42 different languages reported whether they were currently trying to change their personality and, if so, what they were trying to change. Around the world, 60.40% of participants reported that they are currently trying to change their personalities, with the highest percentage in Thailand (81.91%) and the lowest in Kenya (21.41%). Among those who provide open-ended responses to the aspect of personality they are trying to change, the most common goals were to increase emotional stability (29.73%), conscientiousness (19.71%), extraversion (15.94%), and agreeableness (13.53%). In line with previous research, students who are trying to change any personality trait tend to have relatively low levels of emotional stability and happiness. Moreover, those with relatively low levels of socially desirable traits reported attempting to increase what they lacked. These principal findings were generalizable around the world.