The power of pessimistic expectations to alter the future?

To be honest, I found this article by Tali Sharot a little dull until I read:

“The problem with pessimistic expectations, such as those of the clinically depressed, is that they have the power to alter the future; negative expectations shape outcomes in a negative way. How do expectations change reality?

To answer this question my colleague, cognitive neuroscientist Sara Bengtsson, devised an experiment in which she manipulated positive and negative expectations of students while their brains were scanned and tested their performance on cognitive tasks. To induce expectations of success, she primed college students with words such as smart, intelligent and clever just before asking them to perform a test. To induce expectations of failure, she primed them with words like stupid and ignorant. The students performed better after being primed with an affirmative message.”

The idea that negative expectations can shape outcomes in a negative way upsets the idea of the necessity of pessimism or at least tempered realism. In other words, could what would otherwise be a constructive effort to create a positive effect be upset by negative expectations preceding the effort?

If this is true it places even greater importance on prior expectation and outlook. It’s all too easy to say, “Well, I probably won’t be able to improve my golf game, but I’m going to try.” and then contend that the statement constitutes a realistic outlook that’s supported by the willingness to put forth an honest effort. That statement doesn’t feel pessimistic to the person who made it (me).

This all seems like more support for Dr, Seligman’s advice to make the narrative more positive, and to use that positivity and the beginning of the narrative.

The power of pessimistic expectations to alter the future?

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