Hannah Lee – A Celebration of Faculty Research ~IUN~


I am a counseling psychologist, so I study
psychological issues and trying to find ways to help people. I usually do so by understanding cultural
differences and today I’m gonna share one of my studies. Let me start by showing you a photo first. Is it half empty or half full? The answer is half full. So that’s what we learned – that’s the right
answer. Because being more optimistic – thinking this
is half full – is better than thinking half empty because that’s a pessimistic view. So optimism is highly valued here, especially
Western culture. I noticed – I’m from Korea and I studied in
Japan – since I started living here that people here in general are very optimistic compared to those folks
in Korea or Japan, and in students alike. They’re quite optimistic about their academic
performance, their future goals. Those people, students in Korea or Japan,
they sometimes seem pessimistic, even. They’re quite critical about their goals and
their ability to pursue their life goals. I wondered – so does that mean those people
in Korea or Japan, those students, achieve less in school? Well, not necessarily. In each culture some people achieve better,
some people achieve less because it depends on what they believe. If they believe being pessimistic, more critical
about themselves works better then they’re gonna follow the notion. But here, obviously being optimistic
works better – that’s what people believe. There’s no right or wrong notion. Those people follow their own cultural notion. What I’m more interested in, though, are those
few who do not receive benefits from their own cultural notion. For example, in my first study I asked students:
“What is your estimated final grade in the course?” At the beginning of the semester, around 80%
of students said, “I’m gonna get an A or A – .” Let’s check reality. I collected data at the end of the semester
– their actual grade – and only 20% of students actually got an A
or A -. So clearly all optimistic students achieve
what they wish for. My research more focuses on critically reviewing
the benefits of the cultural notion. I started here in America on the benefits
of optimism. Optimism is obviously beneficial for many
people here because optimism helps you feel better. It feels good right away – you can do it! Also you increase your self-esteem, which
is really important in this culture. But at the same time, research shows some
optimistic people, highly-optimistic people, actually use the optimism as an excuse to
avoid what they need to do. So – procrastinating. Also, those people have a tendency to not
utilize or not pay attention to ongoing new information. Here’s my next study. I asked students the same question:
“What is your expected final grade?” This time I asked them throughout the semester
at five different time points. I asked at the beginning of the semester and
right before the final exam. This time I asked them: “What is your actual grade at the time you
answer?” at the time of each survey. This is their actual grade at each time point. What about, then, their expected a final grade? Are they maintaining it all the way? This is their expected grade. This means they actually changed their estimation
from A to a little below – still high – but they adjust. Actually, this is not a bad thing at all. In real life – when you’re working on a project,
for example – you need to see the new information because sometimes you change your plan, want
be more strategic. So actually being able to bring expectations
down is not a bad thing at all. I call this a functional shift in optimism. So those who are not able to achieve, or achieve
less, those students do not change this functional
shift; they maintain the high optimism all the way through. So those people likely have procrastination
issues as well. In this really short presentation, what I
can say is the benefit of optimism will be depending on where you are in your work – the stage – of
your achievement process. For example, if you are in the initial stage
then optimism may be beneficial for you because it’s going to bring you hope. However, once you start the actual
working stage optimism may not be beneficial anymore. You may need to be critical about yourself
because it’s going to help you prepare for the worst. In my research line, I’m interested in developing
a program to promote a more strategic use of your own cultural notion while you’re still
on the left [On screen: Hope for the best] What I believe is if you don’t want to be
the victim of your published notion, which is “Optimism works in this culture:” Be optimistic at the beginning, but once you
get in, a little bit pessimistic. Thank you. [applause]

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