Most people know what optimism and pessimism are: optimism being when people act positively, and pessimism being when people act negatively. However, very few people really know what they are in regard to your brain's functionality and how they impact your life.
To begin we should first look at the exact definition of both these words. Most people think Optimism is when people act positively, and pessimism is when people act negatively. However, a definition of optimism is to be confident about the future and the outcome of something, while a definition of pessimism can be to see the worst outcome of a situation.
By looking back on history we can see the benefits of being pessimistic as well as optimistic. First, let’s look at pessimism if a pessimist had the choice of walking through tall grass or walking around the pessimist would think of the worst possible situation is that they are bitten by a snake. They may use this information to reach the conclusion that going around would increase their chances of survival. So if pessimists went around and optimists walked through the grass pessimists would be more likely to survive. Based on Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection, we can deduce that this would lead to a greater amount of pessimists than optimists.
So it may seem that pessimism can be more helpful however we look at optimism we can see several studies end with the conclusion that optimists live happier lives and are generally more successful, although it is not a determining factor. based on the early example, pessimists have a better chance of making choices that keep them alive. So it seems as if the benefits of both are present and important to your life in different ways.
“This state we’ve mimicked has an overestimation on cost relative to benefit,” says Graybiel a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in regard to a study they performed on animals involving temporarily modifying their caudate nucleus which deals with decision making.
This quote is especially interesting with regard to humans. If the results of the study are correct, then humans have a habit of putting the potential cost of action ahead of what they can gain by completing that action. To build on this, let’s talk about how this applies to someone’s everyday life. If we compare it to something like starting at a new school. For the sake of the example let’s assume that this school has a much larger amount of homework than most other schools, however, it has better classes. Since humans have a slightly higher chance of putting the cost ahead of the gain, so you may decide to remain at your current school.
To conclude we see that humans are more likely to survive when they act pessimistically leading to a larger amount of pessimists than optimists. We can also see that when people are given a choice between taking a deal, causing them to gain and lose, verse not taking it, it is very slightly more likely for us to not take the deal.