Dispositional optimism and optimistic bias: Associations with cessation motivation, confidence, and attitudes

Nicole Senft Everson, William M.P. Klein, Scott S. Lee, Rebecca Selove, Maureen Sanderson, William J. Blot, Rachel F. Tyndale, Stephen King, Karen Gilliam, Suman Kundu, Mark Steinwandel, Sarah J. Sternlieb, Shaneda Warren Andersen, Debra L. Friedman, Erin Connors, Mary Kay Fadden, Matthew S. Freiberg, Quinn S. Wells, Juan Canedo, Robert P. YoungRaewyn J. Scott, Ebele M. Umeukeje, Derek M. Griffith, Hilary A. Tindle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To test whether 2 conceptually overlapping constructs, dispositional optimism (generalized positive expectations) and optimistic bias (inaccurately low risk perceptions), may have different implications for smoking treatment engagement. METHOD: Predominantly Black, low-income Southern Community Cohort study smokers (n = 880) self-reported dispositional optimism and pessimism (Life Orientation Test-Revised subscales: 0 = neutral, 12 = high optimism/pessimism), comparative lung cancer risk (Low/Average/High), and information to calculate objective lung cancer risk (Low/Med/High). Perceived risk was categorized as accurate (perceived = objective), optimistically-biased (perceived < objective), or pessimistically-biased (perceived > objective). One-way ANOVAs tested associations between dispositional optimism/pessimism and perceived risk accuracy. Multivariable logistic regressions tested independent associations of optimism/pessimism and perceived risk accuracy with cessation motivation (Low/High), confidence (Low/High), and precision treatment attitudes (Favorable/Unfavorable), controlling for sociodemographics and nicotine dependence. RESULTS: Mean dispositional optimism/pessimism scores were 8.41 (SD = 2.59) and 5.65 (SD = 3.02), respectively. Perceived lung cancer risk was 38% accurate, 27% optimistically-biased, and 35% pessimistically-biased. Accuracy was unrelated to dispositional optimism (F(2, 641) = 1.23, p = .29), though optimistically-biased (vs. pessimistically-biased) smokers had higher dispositional pessimism (F(2, 628) = 3.17, p = .043). Dispositional optimism was associated with higher confidence (Adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.71, 95% CI [1.42, 2.06], p < .001) and favorable precision treatment attitudes (AOR = 1.66, 95% CI [1.37, 2.01], p < .001). Optimistically-biased (vs. accurate) risk perception was associated with lower motivation (AOR = .64, 95% CI [.42, .98], p = .041) and less favorable precision treatment attitudes (AOR = .59, 95% CI [.38, .94], p = .029). CONCLUSIONS: Dispositional optimism and lung cancer risk perception accuracy were unrelated. Dispositional optimism was associated with favorable engagement-related outcomes and optimistically-biased risk perception with unfavorable outcomes, reinforcing the distinctiveness of these constructs and their implications for smoking treatment. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-629
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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