Pessimistic Bias in Comparative Evaluations: A Case of Perceived Vulnerability to the Effects of Negative Life Events Academic Article uri icon


  • This study tested the hypothesis that unrealistic pessimism characterizes comparative estimates of coping ability. Participants rated their ability to adjust to a range of negative life events in comparison to the abilities of other same-sex students at their college. Most coping estimates showed signs of unrealistic pessimism, in that students rated their own abilities as worse than those of other same-sex students. Analyses indicated that this effect was due, in part, to the presence of an egocentric bias and, in part, to the absence of a self-enhancement bias. First, pessimism appeared to arise because participants paid more attention to the difficulties that they would have coping with severe misfortunes than they paid to the difficulties that others would have. Second, pessimism appeared to arise because participants were not motivated to enhance their coping appraisals, given that they were optimistic that they would not experience these events in the future.

published proceedings

  • Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

altmetric score

  • 10

author list (cited authors)

  • Blanton, H., Axsom, D., McClive, K. P., & Price, S.

citation count

  • 57

complete list of authors

  • Blanton, Hart||Axsom, Danny||McClive, Kimberly P||Price, Simani

publication date

  • December 2001