Optimism bias and dispositional optimism: implications for health and behavioural change


  • D. Monzani
  • P. Steca
  • A. Greco
  • D. Baretta
  • M. D'Addario


Objectives. Optimism bias is defined as a cognitive bias that causes people that believe that their chances of experiencing negative events are lower and their chance of experiencing positive events are higher than those of their peers. Dispositional optimism is a generalized expectancy of positive future outcomes. Both constructs have important implications for physical and mental health. Aim of this contribution is to evaluate the link between optimism bias and dispositional optimism and to assess their differential influence on the adoption of preventive behaviour, health status, and behavioural change in smoking and sun exposure habits. Method. Participating in the study were 301 young adults (Male= 53%, mean age= 27; 35% smokers). They filled in self-report measures of: optimism bias, dispositional optimism, health preventive behaviour, health status, and socio-cognitive variables (i.e. task self-efficacy, risk perception, outcome expectancy, and behavioural intention) of the motivational phase of the Health Action Process Approach model, considering smoking and sun exposure habits. Results. A medium-high correlation exists between optimism bias and dispositional optimism. Pearson correlation analysis shows that optimism bias has a specific and negative association with risk perception, whereas dispositional optimism displays a medium and positive relation with task self-efficacy. Both construct are weakly but positively related to preventive habits and physical health, but positively and moderately associated with mental health. Conclusion. Optimism bias and dispositional optimism are highly correlated but distinct constructs with potential and differential effect for physical health and mental well-being.





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