The effects of negative reflection for defensive pessimists: Dissipation or harnessing of threat?

Mark D. Seery, Tessa V. West, Max Weisbuch, Jim Blascovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has demonstrated that defensive pessimists perform best when allowed to think about negative outcomes prior to performance. Two competing hypotheses could account for this phenomenon: negative states dissipate or are harnessed. Existing findings have not directly tested defensive pessimists' experience during performance, which is critical for resolving the issue. To this end, cardiovascular markers of challenge/threat motivational states were assessed while defensive pessimists and controls completed a test. Before the test, participants were randomly assigned to one of three imagery conditions (positive, negative, or relaxation). Unlike control participants, defensive pessimists exhibited the greatest threat-a negative state-in the negative imagery condition and utilized a more conservative test-taking strategy, thus supporting the harnessing hypothesis. The implications for understanding the relationships between defensive pessimism, motivation, and performance are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-520
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Cardiovascular reactivity
  • Challenge and threat
  • Defensive pessimism
  • Motivational states
  • Performance
  • Strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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