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Unrealistic Self Perceptions, Illusions Of Control, And Unrealistic Optimism

1618 words - 7 pages

We’re either under an illusion or depressed. We are living in the same world, but we are interpreting it differently. Are depressed people more opt to be mentally healthy than those who are optimistic? That’s what the research of Taylor and Brown (1988) would have us believe, suggesting that depressed people have a more accurate construct of reality. On the other hand, Taylor and Brown (1988) argue that while depressed people seem to have more accurate self-perception, positive illusions tend to lead to healthy behavior. Colvin (1994) questioned the researchers in saying their evidence was weak. The concept of mental health has been speculated upon throughout the history of psychology. ...view middle of the document...

They tend to exaggerate their positive personality traits in comparison to other people and negate their negative traits. Logically, it is impossible for most people to be better than the average. Overly positive views of oneself can be thought to have an illusory nature. It is interesting to note that this illusion extends to friends. People tend to attribute positive qualities to their friends moreso than to others.
Lewinsohn, Mischel, Chaplin, and Barton (1980) performed an experiment where they had observers watch college-student participants complete a group-interaction task. The observers were asked to rate the students along a number of personality dimensions (e.g., friendly, warm, and assertive). The subjects also rated themselves. The results revealed that the self-ratings were overly positive compared to the observers’ ratings. Suggestive evidence has indicated that individuals who are low in self-esteem, moderately depressed, or both are more likely to have stable self-perceptions.
If two dice are thrown, a person thinks they have more control if they throw them than if someone else does. Individuals tend to think they have more control over their environment than they actually do. Taylor et al. termed this “Illusions of Control”. Depressed people and those in a negative mood show less vulnerability to these illusions. A study by Gollwitzer and Kinney was used to test the illusion-of-control effect.
Gollwitzer and Kinney (1989) put half of the participants of a study in a deliberative mindset by having them think about the pros and cons of making a major change in their lives. The other half were placed in an implemental mindset by having them think about a decision they had already made and to list when, where, and how they would like to initiate goal-direction actions. In addition to this, the participants worked on a contingency light task in which they tried to turn on a light by either pressing or not pressing a button. Participants in the implemental mindset condition felt that they had successfully demonstrated personal control over the light task when light onset was frequent. However, participants in the deliberative mindset condition did not succumb to the illusion-of-control effect. In addition, the control participants (those that were not placed in either mindset) showed a higher illusion of control than deliberative but less illusion of control than implemental participants. The results imply that when people are thinking about action goals, they are less vulnerable to the illusion of control when they plan the implementation of goal-directed actions (Taylor 1995).
There are limitations to the Gollwitzer and Kinney study. Because the light switch situation is fairly unfamiliar, it can be easily manipulated. Also, Gollwitzer and Kinney’s study addressed only uncontrollable outcomes whereas it is important to gauge whether mindset affects the controllability of outcomes that are under personal control. Moreover, the...

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