The Pessimism measure is part of a larger Optimism/Pessimism Scale which is a self-administered 56-item instrument, 18 items worded in an optimistic direction (the optimism scale) and 18 in a pessimistic direction (the pessimism scale). The remaining items constituted 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. The larger Optimism/Pessimism Scale can be found here.


Geographies Tested: United States of America

Populations Included: Female, Male, Other

Age Range: Adolescents, Adults


Instructions: The 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. It is best not to set your hopes too high since you will probably be disappointed.
2. I have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills.
3. Rarely do I expect good things to happen.
4. When it comes to my future plans and ambitions in life, I expect more to go wrong than right.
5. I believe there’s not much hope for the human race.
6. People get ahead by using ‘pull’ and not because of what they know.
7. Even when things in my life are going okay,I expect them to get worse soon.
8. 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.
9. When gambling, I expect to lose.
10. The future looks very dismal.
11. Give me 5050 odds and I will choose the wrong answer every time.
12. It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there.
13. If I were in competition and contestants were narrowed down to myself and one other person, I would expect to be runner-up.
14. I have a tendency to blow up problems so they seem worse than they really are.
15. As time goes on, things will most likely get worse.
16. Better to expect defeat: then it doesn’t hit so hard when it comes.
17. It seems the cards of life are stacked against me.
18. When the weatherman predicts 50%, chance of rain, you might just as well count on seeing rain.

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

Scoring Procedures

Scores are reversed and summed, with higher scores indicating more pessimism.

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

Citation Frequency

Ease of Use Score

Formative Research

Qualitative Research

Existing Literature/Theoretical Framework

Field Expert Input

Cognitive Interviews / Pilot Testing








Criterion (gold-standard)


Ease of Use


Scoring Clarity