I have a working theory that some denominational differences, like Calvinism and Arminianism, are differences in explanatory style (with Calvinism being optimistic to a fault). Dutton often cites Calvinism as an example of a highly adaptive ethnocentric religion. Basically it says everything that happens to you is ultimately a minor setback because you were born special and chosen and loved and better than other people. That’s pretty damn optimistic. You’d be inclined to find the silver lining in bad situations. Progressivism is also an example, which may explain its extraordinary resilience in the face of countervailing evidence. This may have something to do with the observed relations between leftism/activism/optimism/narcissism/hypocrisy and rightism/passivism/pessimism/autism/hypercriticism, respectively. Generally, an optimistic explanatory style is predicted by prole-tier IQ and k-selection (high religiosity, high extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness, etc.). These are incidentally also the predictors of fertility in the modern day.
So if you want white children despite societal pressures to the contrary, it pays to be a stupid, cheerful Calvinist. Intelligence, realism, and atheist individualism are boner-killers and clam-shutters. (Just reporting the facts here.) If you’re a hypercritical pessimist your personal genes are going to be bred out, so you’d better start investing your efforts into your retarded but happy and resilient nephews and nieces, because they are the genetic future of white countries.
Kansas City’s Super Bowl performance serves as an excellent example of how explanatory style predicts performance under pressure. From Seligman:
I found right away that I knew something the coaches didn’t. The optimism scores from the ASQ were totally unrelated to the coaches’ ratings of how the swimmers would do under pressure. But did these scores predict actual success in swimming?
To find this out, Nort and Karen rated each swim for each swimmer for the entire season as “worse than expected” or “better than expected.” The swimmers also rated themselves for the same thing, and it was clear that the coaches and the swimmers were on the same wavelength, since the ratings coincided perfectly. I merely totaled up the number of “worse than expected” swims for the season. The pessimists on the ASQ had about twice as many unexpectedly poor swims as the optimists did. The optimists lived up to their swimming potential, and the pessimists fell below theirs.
Would explanatory style work once again to predict the way people responded to defeat, as it had in baseball, basketball, and sales?
To test this, we simulated defeat under controlled conditions. At the end of the season, we had each athlete swim one of his or her best events all out. Nort or Karen then told the swimmer that his time was between 1.5 and 5 seconds (depending on the distance) worse than it actually was. So Biondi was told that he swam the one-hundred butterfly in 51.7 seconds, when he actually swam it in 50.2. We chose the amount of “failure” because we knew it would be very disappointing (one swimmer sat and rocked like a baby in a corner for twenty minutes afterwards), but undetectable as false. Each swimmer then rested and swam the event again as fast as he or she could. As we expected, the pessimists got worse. The performance of two stars who are also pessimists deteriorated in their hundred-yard events by a full two seconds, the difference between winning their event and finishing dead last. The optimists either held on or, like Biondi, got even faster. Several of the optimists got faster by between two and five seconds, again enough to be the difference between a lousy race and a win. The swimmers were, of course, debriefed afterwards.
So the Berkeley swimmers make it clear that explanatory style can work to produce success or failure at an individual level, just as the professional-sports data show this at a team level. Moreover, explanatory style works by the same means for both individuals and teams. It makes athletes do better under pressure. If they are optimists, they try harder and come back from defeat.
The Chiefs were 5-0 when trailing by double-digits this season, including three playoff games. Their performance under pressure was actually quite predictable if you’re aware of this body of research. Their comeback against the Texans was the only playoff game I caught this season and it was very impressive. I suspect the failure to understand performance under pressure is why Vox’s victory predictions are known as “the kiss of death”. His track record of incorrect NFL predictions is nearly perfect, well beyond mere chance, suggesting he senses optimistic resilience reliably and then bets against it.
What Every Coach Should Know
IF YOU ARE a coach or a serious athlete, you must take these findings seriously. They have several immediate, practical implications for you.
• Optimism is not something you know about intuitively. The ASQ measures something you can’t. It predicts success beyond experienced coaches’ judgments and handicappers’ expertise.
• Optimism tells you when to use certain players rather than others. Consider a crucial relay race. You have a fast athlete, but he’s a pessimist who lost his last individual race. Substitute. Use pessimists only after they have done well.
• Optimism tells you who to select and recruit. If two prospects are close in raw talent, recruit the optimist. He’ll do better in the long run.
• You can train your pessimists to become optimists.
The counterexample of the usefulness of optimism is Kobe’s insistence that his helicopter pilot do really dangerous shit to simulate the thrill of a buzzer-beating shot. He was extremely good in a clutch situation but that often requires a confidence bordering on mental illness.
You can take the test here to find out how optimistic you are. Refer back to the final paragraph the book summary to learn how best to apply your baseline temperament.