The Pollyanna principle (also called Pollyannaism or positivity bias) is the tendency for people to agree with positive statements describing them. The phenomenon is similar to the Forer effect. Research indicates that, at the subconscious level, the mind has a tendency to focus on the optimistic while, at the conscious level, it has a tendency to focus on the negative. This subconscious bias towards the positive is often described as the Pollyanna principle.
The concept as described by Matlin and Stang in 1978 used the archetype of Pollyanna, a young girl with infectious optimism. Critics of personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator argue that the tests are considered accurate by people exhibiting Pollyannaism.
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The "Pollyanna principle" is a psychological principle which portrays the positive bias people have when thinking of the past. According to the Pollyanna Principle, the brain processes information that is pleasing and agreeable in a more precise and exact manner as compared to unpleasant information. We actually tend to remember past experiences as more rosy than they actually occurred. This principle does not apply to people with depression.
In 1978 researchers Margaret Matlin and David Stang provided substantial evidence of the Pollyanna Principle. They found that people expose themselves to positive stimuli and avoid negative stimuli, they take longer to recognize what is unpleasant or threatening than what is pleasant and safe, and they report that they encounter positive stimuli more frequently than they actually do.
Matlin and Stang also determined that selective recall was a more likely occurrence when recall was delayed: the longer the delay, the more selective recall that occurred.
- Confirmation bias
- Illusory superiority
- Optimism bias
- Overconfidence effect
- Self-serving bias
- Depressive realism
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