Why do some people just seem to hate everything, while others relish the same with gusto? A new study explores what drives those differing personalities.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania say it boils down to what’s called, dispositional attitude, or a personality trait that drives whether or not you’re a Debbie Downer or someone who loves everything.
“Optimists tend to have generalised beliefs, usually about the future, such as ‘Things are going to turn out well,’” says study author Justin Hepler. He adds, “We were interested in whether people liked or disliked things, in general, and had people report their attitude about different things.”
The study involved 2,000 subjects, who read a list of 200 items, anything from sea salt to T-shirts, and rated them 1 to 7, with 1 representing “extremely unfavourable” and 7 representing “extremely favourable”. Subjects also completed surveys that tested for potentially overlapping traits, such as optimism/pessimism and extroversion/introversion.
While the subjects’ dispositional attitudes did often correlate with other traits, they were also statistically different, in that some pessimists like a lot of things while some optimists are more discriminating. Although there isn’t much someone can do to radically alter a personality trait, the results of the study can help people become more aware of their attitudes.
“If you like something, you are more likely to do it,” Hepler says, adding “When you combine that with the fact that some people have the tendency to like a lot of things, some people might just do more things overall.”