Is the glass half empty or half full?

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Is the glass half empty or half full?

"Is the glass half empty or half full?" is a common expression, a proverbial phrase, generally used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty), or as a general litmus test to simply determine an individual's worldview.[1] The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on one's point of view and that there may be opportunity in the situation as well as trouble.

This idiom is used to explain how people perceive events and objects. Perception is unique to every individual and is simply one's interpretation of reality. The phrase "Is the glass half empty or half full" can be understood also as a philosophical question.[2]

Another perspective comes from psychology, where research has shown that a speaker's choice of frame can reflect their knowledge of the environment, and that listeners can be sensitive to this information.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stephanie Stokes Oliver (2001-11-27). Seven Soulful Secrets for Finding Your Purpose and Minding Your Mission. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 106–. ISBN 978-0-385-48767-2. Retrieved 2013-08-07. I love that proverbial question, “Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?” It's like the litmus test for how you see the world. Optimists have a tendency to hope for the best. That doesn't mean they hope for the best sometimes. It means that ...
  2. ^ Terry Bookman (December 2004). A Soul's Journey: Meditations on the Five Stages of Spiritual Growth. iUniverse. pp. 157–. ISBN 978-0-595-77439-5. Retrieved 2013-08-07. When is the glass half empty for you? Half full? What prevents you from seeing it (at least) as half full all the time? Fill a glass halfway with water. Look at it for a few moments. Is the glass half empty or half full? This classic question is not an ...
  3. ^ McKenzie, C. R. M.; Nelson, J. D. (2003). "What a speaker's choice of frame reveals: Reference points, frame selection, and framing effects" (PDF). Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 10 (3): 596. doi:10.3758/BF03196520.
  4. ^ Sher, S.; McKenzie, C. R. M. (2006). "Information leakage from logically equivalent frames" (PDF). Cognition. 101 (3): 467–494. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2005.11.001. PMID 16364278.