The emergence and evolution of optimistic expectations in schoolchildren

Carolina Falcón, Santos Orejudo, Teresa Fernández-Turrado, Francisco Javier Zarza


When we study optimism in children, we note the temporary emergence of a bias that leads them to make optimistic predictions. In this study we intend to learn more about changes that can be observed in the optimistic bias of 6- to 12-year old schoolchildren when they predict future events, and in the way they justify those predictions. A total of 77 pupils participated in this study; we evaluated each one of them individually with a Piagetian interview, asking them to formulate predictions about a series of hypothetical situations. After analyzing whether a child’s prediction implied that the situation would maintain itself or would change for better or for worse, we classified the justifications they provided for their predictions. Results show that these subjects regarded positive change as more likely in the case of psychological or hybrid events than for purely biological ones, and that younger children tended to display a greater bias in favor of the likelihood of positive change. These younger children justified their predictions stating that nature or the passing of time could be responsible for the changes, without needing further intervention on the part of other agents. Older children, on the other hand, tended to provide similar kinds of explanations to justify their expectation of stasis. 


optimism bias; optimism; primary education; predictions; attributions

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