- Slides: 33
Le bien-être dans l’éducation: Colloque international (Paris, 2 -4 Octobre 2017) Optimistic attributional style matters, after all: Linking explanations of positive events to well-being and academic achievement Tamara Gordeeva, Evgeny Osin, Oleg Sychev
Research questions • Do optimistic students achieve better academic results? • Are there situations when optimism can be detrimental to success? • Are optimistic students higher in well-being?
Two approaches to optimism • Dispositional optimism (Scheier & Carver, 1987, 1992): generalized positive expectations of the future. • Optimistic Attributional, or Explanatory Style (Seligman et al. , 1979): the way people explain causes of positive and negative events to themselves. Optimists: – explain negative events with causes that are external, unstable, and specific; – attribute positive events to internal, stable, and global causes.
Three parameters of attributional style Attributional style for good and bad events Stability Globality Internality Abramson, Seligman, Teasdale, 1978
Measuring Attributional Style • Attributional Style Questionnaire (Seligman et al. , 1979): 6 positive and 6 negative situations rated on 3 parameters. Disadvantage: low reliability. • Later measures using controllability parameter instead of internality: – – – ASAT, Anderson & Arnoult, 1985 WASQ, Ashforth & Fugate, 2006 ASAT-III, ASAT-IY, Anderson & Riger, 1991 CDS, Russel, 1982 SFESQ: Gordeeva, Osin, Shevyakhova, 2009 – a Russian-language measure.
Structure of the SFESQ Stability Globality Controllability Attributional (Explanatory) Style Positive Events Negative Events Success and Failure Explanatory Style Questionnaire (Gordeeva, Osin, Shevyahova, 2009)
Versions of the SFESQ • SFESQ for Adults: 24 situations, 48 items • SFESQ for Schools: 24 situations, 48 items • SFESQ-Ac[ademic]: 12 situations, 36 items • Children ASQ: 15 situations, 15 items All include separate scores for positive and negative events, α in the. 80 -. 85 range, except for CASQ (. 60 s) Gordeeva, Osin, & Shevyakhova, 2009; Gordeeva, Osin, & Sychev, 2013; 2014; 2017
SFESQ-Ac: Sample Positive Item The respondent is asked to imagine vividly a number of situations, as if they had really happened in his/her life, and provide and rate causes for these situations. 2. You have applied to a place/position you have been dreaming of (e. g. , a good job or graduate study) and got accepted. This happened because ________________ The reason why I got this place: Will never arise again 1 2 3 4 5 6 Will always exist Is related to this particular situation 1 2 3 4 5 6 Is related to all situations in my life Is beyond my control 1 2 3 4 5 6 I can fully control it Purple: PESSIMISTIC answers Green: OPTIMISTIC answers
SFESQ-Ac: Sample Negative Item The respondent is asked to imagine vividly a number of situations, as if they had really happened in his/her life, and provide and rate causes for these situations. 10. You have taken an important exam and failed. This happened because ________________ The reason why I have failed an important exam: Will never arise again 1 2 3 4 5 6 Will always exist Is related to this particular situation 1 2 3 4 5 6 Is related to all situations in my life Is beyond my control 1 2 3 4 5 6 I can fully control it Purple: PESSIMISTIC answers Green: OPTIMISTIC answers
Existing research • How are the two types of optimism related to academic achievement?
Dispositional optimism: very little! Attributional style: very diverse results…
Existing Measurement Issues • If both LOT and ASQ measure optimism, how are they different? • What explains the heterogeneity of the associations of attributional style with academic achievement?
Study 1 (Gordeeva, Osin, 2010) • Sample: high school students (N=234) • Measures: – Optimistic attributional style (SFESQ) – Dispositional Optimism (LOT-R) – Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale – Spielberger Trait Depression Scale – Subjective Happiness Scale – Achievement in 4 principal subjects at school at the end of past semester
Correlations Only the optimistic attribution of positive situations was associated with past GPA Optimistic attribution of negative situations and dispositional optimism were more strongly associated with well-being and depression
Mediation analysis: optimistic attribution of positive situations fully mediates the effects of past academic achievement on dispositional optimism and self-esteem Attributional optimism might work as : 1) a motivating factor translating basic dispositions into motivation for specific activity (top-down process); 2) a feedback mechanism that translates academic success into basic dispositions (bottom-up process).
Study 2 (Gordeeva, Sychev, Osin, 2017) • Sample: 5 th and 6 th grade school students (N=185), adolescents aged 10 to 13 • Measures: – Children’s optimistic attributional style (CASQ) – MSLSS Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale (Huebner) – CDI: Child Depression Inventory (Beck) – Achievement in 3 principal subjects (Math, Russian language, Foreign language) 8 months later
Only optimistic attribution of successes is related to academic achievement Optimistic attribution of failures is more strongly related to depression
STUDY 3: CHEMISTRY STUDENTS (UNIVERSITY-LEVEL)
Sample Two cohorts of Chemistry students at Moscow State University: – N=166 and N=127; – Age 17 to 20; – 62% Male. Longitudinal design: – Psychological assessment during the 1 st year (T 1) and the 2 nd year (T 2); – Academic performance at the first session (T 1) and during subsequent 2 years (T 2).
Optimism and Academic Achievement OAS Positive Sit. OAS Negative Sit. LOT Fall Exams Year 1 . 11 -. 02 -. 13 Spring Exams Year 1 . 15 -. 01 -. 11 Fall Exams Year 2 . 24 ** -. 06 -. 07 Spring Exams Year 2 . 18 * -. 04 . 02 . 35 *** OAS: Positive Sit. OAS: Negative Sit. . 25 ** Optimistic attributional style for positive situations positively predicted achievement during the first 3 years at university Dispositional optimism was related to attributional optimism and to well-being but not to performance
Optimism for Negative Situations as a Feedback Moderator Students with lower-middle achievement at the first session who gave pessimistic explanations were more likely to improve their GPA during the next 3 semesters: = responsibility-taking mechanism?
And we can ask… • Are there academic situations when some pessimism is actually helpful?
Study 4 (Gordeeva, Osin, 2011) • Sample: applicants to the Moscow State University Psychology department (N=108) before the exams (very hard!) • Measures: – Attributional optimism (SFESQ) – Depression, Happiness – Self-Efficacy: Generalized + Domain-specific (exam) – DV: Subsequent achievement at entrance exams
The super-pessimistic students did not show up for the exam! But slightly pessimistic were more successful than optimists.
Our hypothesis: Optimistic attribution of positive events motivates activity by sustaining self-efficacy Optimistic attribution of negative events reduces anxiety and can demotivate!
Tentative conclusion • Two different mechanisms of optimistic attributions: – Optimistic attribution of successes motivates sustained activity – Pessimistic attribution of failures motivates preparation for difficulties ~ “defensive pessimism” (Norem & Cantor)
Study 5 (Gordeeva, Leontiev, Osin, 2011) • Sample: participants of an international academic contest in Chemistry (N=60, before the actual contest) • Measures: – Domain life satisfaction – Dispositional optimism – Intrinsic and extrinisic motivation, Flow – DV: Subsequent success at contest
Unhappy and pessimistic students are more successful overall (? !) (Potential confound: cultural differences) Profile analysis: unhappy and pessimistic students with extrinsic motivation are more successful in theoretical assignments, happy and optimistic students with intrinsic motivation are more successful in creative tasks. Do we want to sacrifice students’ happiness as the price of success?
Conclusions • Dispositional optimism and attributional optimism, as well as optimistic attributions of positive and negative situations have different functions: – Dispositional optimism: basic attitude support of sustained motivation and well-being – Attributional optimism: constructive thinking mechanism processing results of activity into motivation • Optimistic attribution of successes: increases self-esteem, helps to sustain academic motivation in a longer term… • Optimistic attribution of failures: reduces anxiety, which can have a demotivating effect… This explains the diversity of existing findings!
What can we do as teachers? • Recognize students’ achievements: – give realistic praise, appreciate the positive sides of their work and focus on ways to improve. • Help to cope with possible failures: – help students to take control by setting realistic goals, showing the little things they can work on; – encourage focus on doing the best they can, not necessarily the best (at school, in the world); – help to accept failures as a possibility: the key to success is to learn from them, not to avoid them.