Optimism helps females achieve higher grades - males score lower when overconfident: study

Nov 22, 2011

Female students who were more optimistic achieved significantly higher grades than their less optimistic peers, according to a new study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers. For male students, however, too much optimism led to overconfidence and less studying, resulting in lower grades.

"Optimism in male students can lead to overconfidence or an attitude of 'things will work out for the best'," according to Tamar Icekson, a Ph.D. student in BGU's Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management. "So instead of studying enough for a test, they go out the night before."

Icekson, along with BGU Prof. Ayala Malach-Pines, dean of BGU's business faculty, and Prof. Oren Kaplan of Israel's College of Management, examined the and grades of 174 BGU business undergraduates (28% men and 72% women, ages 20 to 28, with an average age of 24). The study was recently presented at the International Conference of Positive Psychology.

Icekson and Kaplan focus their research on positive psychology – the effect of positive emotions and thinking on behavior. Those male students who scored as most optimistic got the lowest grades.

For , optimism tempered by conscientiousness produced the best results. However, there was no correspondingly high rate of conscientiousness among female students because it was not necessary to achieve higher grades, according to Icekson.

"For female students, optimism alone was beneficial because they're naturally more conscientious than their male counterparts," she says. "Women have lower self-esteem and so if they are not sure things will work out, they study for the test."

Previous studies have shown the value of dispositional optimism and conscientiousness in the workplace; however, the academic context has not been particularly well studied as yet. In Icekson's study, each participant completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire, for which extra course credit was awarded. Optimism was assessed using the Life Orientation Test. It is a one-dimensional measure that consists of 10 choices, such as: "In uncertain times, I usually expect the best," or "If something can go wrong for me, it will."

Academic performance was estimated using the student's final B.A. grade.

Explore further: Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Better student performance with peer learning

Oct 18, 2010

Engineering students with average grades from upper secondary school can manage difficult courses just as well as students with high grades. At least, if a group of them meet an older student once a week during the first ...

Optimism boosts the immune system

Mar 23, 2010

Feeling better about the future might help you feel better for real. In a new study, psychological scientists Suzanne Segerstrom of the University of Kentucky and Sandra Sephton of the University of Louisville studied how ...

Unrealistic optimism prompts risky behavior

Nov 17, 2009

Unrealistic optimism about drinking behavior can lead to later alcohol-related problems, according to research published in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), the official monthly journa ...

Recommended for you

World population likely to peak by 2070

1 hour ago

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

2 hours ago

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

5 hours ago

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

Data indicate there is no immigration crisis

23 hours ago

Is there an "immigration crisis" on the U.S.-Mexico border? Not according to an examination of historical immigration data, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tadchem
not rated yet Nov 22, 2011
The distinction between optimism and overconfidence is only made after the fact, in light of the success or failure of the individual.
An "optimist" who fails is judged to have been "overconfident", while a highly confident individual who succeeds is judged to have been "optimistic."