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Positive Attributional Style

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Updated February 22, 2012

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Definition: Optimists have a positive explanatory style, or positive way of explaining events in their lives. Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them (internal). They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future (stable), and in other areas of their lives (global). Conversely, they see negative events as not being their fault (external). They also see them as being flukes (isolated) that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events (local). For example, if an optimist gets a promotion, she will likely believe it's because she’s good at her job (internal), and will receive more benefits and promotion in the future (global and stable). If she's passed over for the promotion, it's likely because she was having an off-month (local and unstable) because of extenuating circumstances (external), but will do better in the future.

This is in direct contrast to how pessimists see the world--with a negative explanatory style. Pessimists tend to minimize the positive and magnify the negative in the same ways. Often without realizing it, pessimists create stress for themselves while failing to recognize opportunities that may come along, due to their negative attributional style.

How does this happen? Read more about optimists, pessimists, and explanatory style, and see where you fit in the optimism-pessimism continuum with the Optimism Quiz.

This site contains a wealth of information on stress and stress relief. For more stress management resources, see these ongoing stress relief options.

Also Known As: Positive Explanatory Style

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