Optimism effects on cellular immunity: Testing the affective and persistence models

Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Jay O. Castañeda, Theresa E. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Two models can explain effects of optimism on the immune system. The affective model proposes that optimists' positive moods and confidence lead to physiological resilience unless coping efforts are not immediately successful and then lead to vulnerability due to disappointment. The persistence model proposes that optimists' ongoing coping efforts improve prospects for adjustment and health because they continue to pursue goals but may take a physiological toll in the short term. Professional students (n=30) had delayed-type hypersensitivity skin tests under conditions of short-term (mental arithmetic) and long-term (examination) academic stress. Academic optimism was positively associated with skin test response when students did not do mental arithmetic but negatively associated when they did. Among optimism's five-factor model cognates, this effect could be attributed to its conscientiousness element, supporting the persistence model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1615-1624
Number of pages10
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a Research Committee Grant from the University of Kentucky. The authors thank Bann Kang, M.D., for her assistance with this study.


  • Cellular immunity
  • Conscientiousness
  • Optimism
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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