The Sobering Up Effect: Why People Get More Pessimistic As The Moment of Truth Gets Closer

Posted on March 2, 2017

The initial anticipation and eagerness that crumbles underneath the followed desperation and negativity is a feeling experienced by many. Such “sobering up effect” can be seen in many diverse areas, such as the results of medical test, performance in an exam as well as driving test expectations. Furthermore, the more crucial the outcome is to us, the stronger the sobering up effect.

So, why do we become less optimistic and hold lower expectations as the moment of truth draws near? According to Sweeny and Krizan, here are a few possible reasons.

1. Managing the emotions: People often try to control how they feel by changing their expectations. It feels better if the outcome exceeds their expectation instead of the other way round!
2. Once the project or test is completed, people often lose control of the outcome. Therefore, the only thing that lies within their control is their own expectations of the outcome and hence, regulating their expectations is a way of exerting control over the situation.
3. When the outcome only takes place in the distant future, people tend to take a more abstract view and thus, more positive view of the outcome. However, as the outcome comes closer, they may start to think of all the things that could go wrong and thus, getting more pessimistic about the outcome.
4. As the outcome approaches, people start to think about how they may be overly positive about the outcome and hence, start to be more cautious to avoid looking silly.

Henceforth, it may be safer for us to be pessimistic and not get our hopes up than being disappointed at the results. As Thomas Hardy put it, “Pessimism is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child’s play.”


Category(s):Mental Health in Asia

Source material from Psyblog


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