Optimism, Pessimism, and Gambling: The Downside of Optimism

Bryan Gibson, David M. Sanbonmatsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Three studies examined the relation between dispositional optimism and gambling. In Study 1, optimists were more likely than pessimists to have positive gambling expectations and report maintaining these expectations following losses. They also were more likely to indicate that winning money was a primary motivation for their gambling. Study 2 demonstrated that pessimists but not optimists reduce their betting and expectations after poor gaming performance. Study 3 replicated this effect using a more controlled experiment and showed that after losing, optimists report remembering more near wins than do pessimists. Thus, all three studies suggest that optimists, more than pessimists, maintain positive expectations and continue gambling after experiencing negative gaming outcomes. The authors suggest that despite optimism's many benefits, there are common situations in which the pessimistic tendency to disengage is beneficial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Gambling
  • Life Orientation Test
  • Optimism
  • Pessimism


Dive into the research topics of 'Optimism, Pessimism, and Gambling: The Downside of Optimism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this