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Surprising Science

The Pessimistic Brain: Wired to Be Negative?

A new study from Michigan State University found that the brains of optimists and pessimists are different. So the next time you tell someone to “cheer up, Charlie” or “walk on the sunny side of the street,” maybe they are unable to take your advice, because that’s just not how they are wired. 


Pessimists get a bad rap, especially in Western culture where there’s a lot of pressure for outwardly success. It takes a tenacious, positive attitude to achieve the American Dream, for instance, especially in today’s economy. 

But a pessimistic attitude has its advantages. Pessimism likely helped keep our ancestors alive, by making them cautious and fearful.  Optimism, on the other hand, can lead to reckless behavior. 

Is pessimism genetic or a matter of neural plasticity? Are people born pessimists or are their brains shaped that way due to negative experiences? 

DNews explains the nature vs. nurture debate and the brain activity of pessimists: 

       Image credit: Joe Simmons/Shutterstock


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