Law Student Study Finds Better Immune Response During Periods of Optimism
Posted Mar 24, 2010 7:24 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Pessimistic law students have generated yet another study, and this one suggests a somewhat rosy disposition can have health benefits.
A prior study had found that pessimistic law students at the University of Virginia got better grades, made law review more often, and got better job offers.
But a new study of 124 first-year law students by two Kentucky researchers suggests that pessimism has its drawbacks. The study found that students’ immune response worsened as they become more negative about their law school experience, according to a press release and the Times of India.
The study, published in Psychological Science, asked the students how optimistic they felt about law school five times over a six-month period. Students were asked to what extent they agreed with statements such as “I will be less successful than most of my classmates” and “It’s unlikely that I will fail,” Miller-McCune reports. Separately students were asked to rate the positive and negative emotions they were feeling.
After completing the surveys, the students were injected with a substance to generate an immune response.
The students’ general outlook on life didn’t account for differences in immune responses between students, the study found. “But as each student's expectations about law school waxed and waned, their immune response followed along,” the press release says. “So, being optimistic about success in a specific, important domain may promote better immunity against some infections.”
One of the researchers, Suzanne Segerstrom of the University of Kentucky, said some students have a good reason to be pessimistic after they get some of their initial grades. "I don't think that I would advise people that they should revise their expectations to be unrealistic," she said in the press release. "But if people have slightly more positive views of the future than is actually true, that's adaptive."