Abandoning Unrealistic Optimism: Performance Estimates and the Temporal Proximity of Self-Relevant Feedback
by James A. Shepperd, Judith A Ouellette, and Julie K. Fernandez
Although evidence for unrealistic optimism is considerable, there is reason to believe that individuals will abandon their optimism and may even become pessimistic in anticipation of self-relevant feedback. The authors propose and provide preliminary test of a model of the temporal transition from optimism to accuracy to pessimism in outcome predictions. In Study 1, college sophomores, juniors, and seniors estimated their likely salary at their first full-time job after graduation. Only seniors became less optimistic as graduation approached. In Study 2, students estimated their exam score a month before the exam, then again several times after completing the exam yet prior to receiving feedback. As the proximity of feedback neared, students abandoned their optimistic forecast. Study 2 showed that, in anticipation of self-relevant feedback, participants with low self-esteem lowered their performance estimates more readily than did those with high self-esteem.