Emotional Intelligence at Work – Learned Optimism

Martin Seligman has developed a construct that he calls “Learned Optimism.” (Schulman, 1995). It refers to the causal attributions people make when confronted with failure or setbacks. Optimists tend to make specific, temporary, external causal attributions while pessimists make global, permanent, internal attributions.

In research at Met Life, Seligman and his colleagues found that new salesmen who were optimists sold 37 percent more insurance in their first two years than did pessimists. They even outsold the average agent by 27 percent (Schulman, 1995).

In another study of learned optimism, Seligman tested 500 members of the freshman class at the University of Pennsylvania. He found that their scores on a test of optimism were a better predictor of actual grades during the freshman year than SAT scores or high school grades (Schulman, 1995).

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