The Optimism/Pessimism Scale is a 56-item self-administered instrument, 18 items worded in an optimistic direction (the optimism scale) and 18 in a pessimistic direction (the pessimism scale). The remaining items constitute filler, intended to mask the intent of the measurement. Statements in the pool of items are varied, with the intent to address optimism and pessimism in three domains: (1) optimism/pessimism as it relates to 18 personal life experiences; (2) optimism/pessimism in regard to the plight of people and the world in general; and (3) optimism/pessimism as it is reflected in the individual’s perceptual/defensive style.


Geographies Tested: United States of America

Populations Included: Female, Male

Age Range: Adolescents, Adults


Instructions: The 56 statements printed below represent individual differences in viewpoint- Using the scale shown below, please respond with your own point of view to all of the statements: for example, if you strongly agree with a statement then circle 1 (S.A.).Do not spend a lot of time thinking about each one; just indicate your first impression. Remember, respond to these statements according to how you feel about them right now

1. I like people I get to know.
2. It is best not to set your hopes too high since you will probably be disappointed.
3. There is so much to be done and so little time to do it in.
4. I have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills.
5. Rarely do I expect good things to happen.
6. Everything changes so quickly these days that I often have trouble deciding which are the right rules to follow.
7. All in the world is a good place.
8. When it comes to my future plans and ambitions in life, I expect more to go wrong than right.
9. My hardest battles are with myself.
10. I believe there’s not much hope for the human race.
11. It does not take me long to shake off a bad mood
12. If you hope and wish for something long and hard enough, you will eventually get it.
13. People get ahead by using ‘pull’ and not because of what they know.
14. Even when things in my life are going okay, I expect them to get worse soon.
15. With enough faith, you can do almost anything.
16. I enjoy myself most when I am alone, away from other people.
17. When I undertake something new, I expect to succeed.
18. Honesty is the best policy in all cases.
19. I generally look at the brighter side of life.
20. If I make a decision on my own, I can pretty much count on the fact that it will turn out to be a poor one.
21. I generally make light of my problems.
22. It is always good to be frank.
23. Where there’s a will, there is a way.
24. I have a tendency to blow up problems so they seem worse than they really are.
25. All in all, it is better to be humble and honest than important and dishonest.
26. As time goes on, things will most likely get worse.
27. It is the slow, steady worker who usually accomplishes the most in the end.
28. When I go to a party I expect to have fun.
29. Times are getting better.
30. Everyone should have an equal chance and an equal say.
31. Better to expect defeat: then it doesn’t hit so hard when it comes.
32. It is wise to flatter important people.
33. I expect to achieve most of the things I want to in life.
34. It seems the cards of life are stacked against me.
35. What is lacking in the world today is the old kind of friendship that lasted for a lifetime.
36. When the weatherman predicts 50%, chance of rain, you might just as well count on seeing rain.
37. Before an interview, I am usually confident that things will go well.
38. Sometimes I feel down, but I bounce right back again.
39. The future seems too uncertain for people to make serious
40. When I have undertaken a task, I find it difficult to set it aside even for a short time.
41. Tenderness is more important than love.
42. When gambling, I expect to lose.
43. Anybody who is willing to work hard has a good chance for success.
44. The future looks very dismal.
45. If I had to choose between happiness and greatness, I’d choose greatness.
46. Minor setbacks are something I usually ignore.
47. In general, things turn out all right in the end.
48. It is better to be a dead hero than a live coward.
49. Give me 5050 odds and I will choose the wrong answer every time.
50. It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there.
51. If I were in competition and contestants were narrowed down to myself and one other person, I would expect to be runner-up.
52. April showers bring May flowers.
53. I can be comfortable with nearly all kinds of people.
54. The worst defeats come after the best victories.
55. In the history of the human race there have probably been just a handful of really great thinkers.
56. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Response Options:
Strongly agree - 1
Agree - 2
Disagree - 3
Strongly disagree - 4

Scoring Procedures

Scores on the pessimism items are reversed and summed with scores on the optimism items to yield a single optimism/pessimism score for each subject. When the scales are evaluated separately, however, both sets of items are scored so that higher scores indicate more of the construct being measured.

Original Citation

Dember, W. N., Martin, S. H., Hummer, M. K., Howe, S. R., & Melton, R. S. (1989). The measurement of optimism and pessimism. Current Psychology, 8(2), 102-119.

Psychometric Score

Ease of Use Score

Scoring breakdown

Formative Research

Qualitative Research

Existing Literature/Theoretical Framework

Field Expert Input

Cognitive Interviews / Pilot Testing








Criterion (gold-standard)



Ease of Use


Scoring Clarity


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