Professor Julie Norem talks with the Globe and the Globe and Mail on the Benefits of Negative Thinking

March 25, 2013

If you want positive outcomes, think negatively. Research by Julie K. Norem, Margaret Hamm Professor of Psychology, contradicts the often shared idea that the easiest way to get feel positive outcomes is "to think ourselves happy," touting instead a healthy dose of pessimism.

Norem's research focuses on the strategies people use to pursue their goals, with an emphasis on "defensive pessimism" -- a strategy in which people envision the worst outcomes and prepare accordingly. She was recently interviewed for articles in Canada national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, and the Boston Globe.

"The basic finding that we’ve shown over and over in different contexts in our research is that people who are anxious do better when they use defensive pessimism than when they try to be optimistic," Norem told the Globe and Mail. "Even if you talk yourself into being upbeat and cheerful, you could still be crippled by anxiety when actually faced with the situation you have been dreading."

"Negative thinking helps you be prepared for things," she told the Boston Globe.

Norem studies personality psychology, and optimism and pessimism. She also researches the strategies people use to pursue goals and studies how self-knowledge influences adaptation, performance, & social relationships.

Read, "The Power of Negative Thinking," in the Boston Globe and "Feeling down? You should consider the benefits of pessimism" in the Globe and Mail.