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PSYC 3690 (60)
Chapter

Article 21 - Distant Memories

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC 3690
Professor
Benjamin Gottlieb
Semester
Winter

Description
20. Taylor, S. (1998). Positive illusions. In H. Friedman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of mental health (pp. 199-208). NY: Academic Press. I. The Mentally Healthy Person • The significance of positive illusions and their apparent beneficial effects stems from the challenge they pose to traditional models of health • Decades of psychological wisdom defines the well-adjusted person as “is thought to engage in accurate reality testing, whereas the individual whose vision is clouded by illusion is regarded as vulnerable to mental illness,” majority of theories also considered contact with reality to be a critical component • Recent textbooks include that the mentally healthy person perceives reality accurately although theory and research on positive illusions suggest that accurate perceptions of oneself, the world, and the future are not essential to mental health; moreover, mildly positive distortions of one’s personal future may well be more psychologically adaptive than accurate perceptions • The set of criterion that mark the mentally healthy individual are: o The ability to be happy/ relatively contented o The ability to develop caring relationships with others o The ability to cope with the inevitable stresses of life o Ability to engage in creative and productive work and to maintain motivation, persistence, and performance in the face of impediments and setbacks II. Self-Aggrandizing Self-Perceptions • People consistently regard themselves more positively and less negatively than they regard others • The ways in which people adopt and maintain these self-aggrandizing self-perceptions are manifold 1. People choose evaluative dimensions on which they are certain to appear more advantaged 2. They define attributes in idiosyncratic ways that emphasize their personal strengths 3. They select worse-off comparison individuals or groups that guarantee a favourable self-other comparison • This is reliably associated with psychological well-being. Positive self-perceptions may aid in coping by buffering people against the normal stressors of daily life and when people encounter more traumatic life events. • Feeling good about oneself through self-aggrandizing self-perceptions clearly fosters a sense of contentment • The perception that most people hold of themselves is not as well balanced as traditional models of mental health have suggested. Normal people appear to be quite cognizant of their strengths and assets and less aware of their weaknesses and faults. These self- portrayals have been regarded as illusory because most people see themselves better than the average person. • Are self-aggrandizing self-perceptions always beneficial, and are they more beneficial, the more positive they become? No, these can make people set themselves up for failure, and make people with high self-perceptions lash out against others whom they regard as criticizing or disrespecting them. III. The Illusion of Control • Most individuals appear to be less realistic in their beliefs about the degree to which they can exert personal control over environmental occurrences. Such beliefs, however, are often greater than can be justified, but nonetheless, appear to be associated with adaptive functioning under both normal and stressful circumstances.Asubstantial amount of experimental literature indicates that an illusion of control helps people to adjust to forthcoming laboratory stressors. • Feelings of control are self-generated in response to stressful occurrences, such as chronic disease, are also associated with better adjustment. • The form that the illusion of control assumes is important. There is little evidence that believing one can control external events is adaptive if no control exists. Typically, the illusion of control is not held about occurrences that are completely uncontrollable, such as whether one causes the sun to come up in the morning, but rather involves mild distortions of the degree of control that actually exists in many settings. Moreover, there is some evidence that perceptions of control, and specifically, what aspects of a situation are controllable, shift in response to feedback about the success of one’s efforts. • It has been argued that mildly and severely depressed individuals are less vulnerable to the illusion of control and instead make more accurate estimates of their degree of personal control than do non-depressed individuals. • Amild illusion of control often exists in normal individuals, and it appears generally to be associated with good psychological adjustment. IV. Unrealistic Optimism • Most people believe that the present is better than the past and that the future will be better. • People overestimate the likelihood that they will experience a wide variety of pleasant events, such as liking their first job, getting a good salary, or having a gifted child, in comparison to their perceptions of other people attaining these same outcomes. Not everyone’s future can be rosier than that of their peers, therefore, the optimism that individuals display appears to be illusory. • Unrealistic optimism appears to be healthy from the standpoint of the traditional criteria of mental health. V. Positive Illusions And Trauma • The positive illusions of self-aggrandizing self-perceptions, an illusion of control, and unrealistic optimism may be particularly helpful for enabling people to combat the major stressful events or traumas of life.Atrauma may be defined as a disruptive negative event that produces life disturbance and at least temporary aberrations in psychological functioning, marked by anxiety, depression, and other
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