Optimism Levels in Students That Engage in Extracurricular Activities Vs Students Not Engaging
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
WINN, T. S.& WINGET, A. (2001). Optimism Levels in Students That Engage in Extracurricular Activities Vs Students Not Engaging . National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Optimism Levels in Students That Engage in Extracurricular Activities Vs Students Not Engaging
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
This study analyzed the relationship between optimism levels and extracurricular activities. A brief analysis of optimism, pessimism, and extracurricular involvement is given. Thirty-nine subjects completed a survey measuring their optimism and their extracurricular involvement. An insignificant correlation was found, there is no relationship between optimism levels and extracurricular involvement.

ďThe university setting sometimes provides harsh lessons in juggling the demands of academics with the needs for socializing and extracurricular activitiesĒ (Williams, 1993). Attending college was the first time, for many of the students, to be away from home and taking care of their own responsibilities. Rent, bills, and food are a few stressors the students are now being exposed to. Class attendance is left up to the student, and newfound freedoms are eminent. Full time students have at least 12 credit hours of classes, but for many students the most lasting lessons of campus life are learned outside the classroom walls (Brady, 1991). These activities range from campus politics and social activism to collegiate sports and greek organizations. Because extracurricular activities look good on resumes, students will sometimes join them to enhance job possibilities. ďStudents who connect with other students have a balanced schedule of study and play do much better than those who overemphasize the play or do not get involved at allĒ (Parker, 1992). Optimism, as defined by Websterís New World Dictionary, is the tendency to take the most hopeful or cheerful view of matters (1971), looking on the bright side of bad situations, or ďseeing the glass as half fullĒ(Seligman, 1996, p. 52) instead of half empty. Optimists attribute negative experiences to the circumstance, bad luck, or to other people (Seligman, 1991). They believe that defeat is a temporary setback and that it is confined to that one case. They perceive bad times as challenging and try even harder to attain their goal. Optimists do better in college, at work, and at play. They are also more apt to be re-elected when running for office due to their high level of determination. Good health is another characteristic of an optimist along with longer lives. According to Seligman (1996) optimists do not deny or avoid sadness and anger, they simply choose to handle them in a positive manner. Pessimism is the opposite of optimism. Pessimists believe that bad events will last a long time and that the result is their fault. They also undermine everything they do. Depression is a strong characteristic found in pessimists. This makes them feel that their future is bleak, their present is unbearable, and their past is filled with defeat (Seligman, 1996). Pessimists believe improvement is not possible. Overcoming the obstacles set forth by college life can be difficult. Being optimistic while attending college is a positive way to handle challenges. Pessimistic attitudes, however can lead to lack of determination and depression. Involvement in extracurricular activities enhances self-esteem. If a relationship is found between optimism levels and extracurricular involvement this information could be passed on to the students to aid their academic success. The purpose of this study is to see if there is a relationship between optimism levels and the amount of extracurricular activities the student is involved in.


Data was collected from students in a general psychology class at Missouri Western State College. Surveys were collected and analyzed for 39 people.

Materials Seligmanís (1990) Optimism Level test was used to test optimism levels in Missouri Western State College students that are involved in extracurricular activities versus students at Missouri Western State College that are not involved in extracurricular activities. The survey consists of 48 questions and takes an average time of fifteen minutes to complete. The students had two answers to choose from. They were asked to choose the answer that best described how they would react in the given situation. Procedure The students were asked by the professor to complete the survey and choose the best answer that described how they would react in the given situations. The students were also asked at the bottom of the test to state how many extracurricular activities they are currently involved in (See Appendix A). The survey was hand scored by the experimenters and evaluated according to Seligmanís guidelines. The Pearsonís Correlation Coefficient was used to analyze the data.

Results A Pearson Correlation was calculated examining the relationship between subjectsí optimism level scores and the number of extracurricular activities they are currently involved in. A weak correlation that was insignificant was found (r(2) = .277, p>.05). Optimism levels are not related to the number of extracurricular activities that the student is involved in (See Appendix B).

The purpose of this study is to see if there is a relationship between optimism levels and the amount of extracurricular activities the student is involved in. Our results showed that optimism levels are not related to the number of extracurricular activities that the student is involved in. There may be many reasons why we did not find a significant correlation. The optimism level of students who are more concerned with academics may be affected more by grades rather than by extracurricular involvement. This contradicts Parkerís (1992) hypothesis that ďstudents who have a balanced schedule of study and play do much better than those who overemphasize the play or donít get involved at allĒ. Optimism level does not seem to be in any way affected by extracurricular involvement. Also, a significant correlation may have been found with a larger pool of subjects. Another reason may be that the survey contained a number scale that was only there for the purpose of analyzing the data. This could have possibly been misinterpreted and influenced the studentsí responses. A future implication would be to eliminate the grading criteria from the questionnaire. Suggestions for future studies may involve other colleges of different locations and sizes.

Brady, D. (1991). Life after class: The controversies and passions of campus life often are the most lasting lessons of university. Macleanís, 104, 42,52.Parker, L. (1999). Managing the college system: Advice to college students. Black Collegian, 23, 1,99.Seligman, M. (1991). Learned optimism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Seligman, M. (1996). The optimistic child. New York: Harper Perennial.Websterís New World Dictionary (1971). Nashville, TN: The Southwestern Company.Williams J. (1993). Socializing, academics and extracurricular activities: Striking a balance at college life. Ebony Man, 8, 10, 34.

Please circle the answer that best describes how you would feel in the given situation.

1. The project you are in charge of is a great success. PsGA. I kept a close watch over everyoneís work. IB. Everyone devoted a lot of time and energy to it. O

2. You and your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) make up after a fight Pmg

A. I forgave him/her. O B. Iím usually forgiving. I

3. You get lost driving to a friendís house. PsB

A. I missed a turn. I B. My friend gave me bad directions. O

4. Your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) surprises you with a gift. PsG

A. He/she just got a raise at work. O B. I took him/her out to a special dinner the night before. I

5. You forget your spouseís (boyfriendís/girlfriendís) birthday. PmB

A. Iím not good at remembering birthdays. I B. I was preoccupied with other things. O

6. You get a flower from a secret admirer. PvG

A. I am attractive to him/her. O B. I am a popular person. I

7. You run for a community office position and you win. PvG

A. I devote a lot of time and energy to campaigning. O B. I work very hard at everything I do. I

8. You miss an important engagement. PvB

A. Sometimes my memory fails me. I B. I sometimes forget to check my appointment book. O

9. You run for a community position and you lose. PsB

A. I didnít campaign hard enough. I B. The person who won knew more people. O

10. You host a successful dinner. PmG

A. I was particularly charming that night. O B. I am a good host. I

11. You stop a crime by calling the police. PsG

A. A strange noise caught my attention. O B. I was alert that day. I

12. You were extremely healthy all year. PsG

A. Few people around me were sick, so I wasnít exposed. O B. I made sure I ate well and got enough rest. I

13. You owe the library ten dollars for an overdue book. PmB

A. When I am really involved in what I am reading, I often forget when itís due. IB. I was so involved in writing the report that I forgot to return the book. O

14. Your stocks make you a lot of money. PmG

A. My broker decided to take on something new. O B. My broker is a top-notch investor. I

15. You win an athletic contest. PmG

A. I was feeling unbeatable. O B. I train hard. I

16. You fail an important examination. PvB

A. I wasnít as smart as the other people taking the exam. I B. I didnít prepare for it well. O

17. You prepared a special meal for a friend and he/she barely PvB touched the food.

A. I wasnít a good cook. IB. I made the meal in a rush. O

18. You lose a sporting event for which you have been training PvB for a long time.

A. Iím not very athletic. I B. Iím not good at that sport. O

19. Your car runs out of gas on a dark street late at night. PsB

A. I didnít check to see how much gas was in the tank. I B. The gas gauge was broken. O

20. You lose your temper with a friend. PmB

A. He/she is always nagging me. I B. He/she was in a hostile mood. O

21. You are penalized for not returning your income-tax forms on time. PmB

A. I always put off doing my taxes. I B. I was lazy about getting my taxes done this year. O

22. You ask a person out on a date and he/she says no. PvB

A. I was a wreck that day. I B. I got tongue-tied when I asked him/her on the date. O

23. A game-show host picks you out of the audience to participate in PsG the show.

A. I was sitting in the right seat. O B. I looked the most enthusiastic. I

24. You are frequently asked to dance at a party. PmG

A. I am outgoing at parties. I B. I was in perfect form that night. O

25. You buy your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) a gift and he/she PsBdoesnít like it.

A. I donít put enough thought into things like that. IB. He/she has very picky tastes. O

26. You do exceptionally well in a job interview. PmG

A. I felt extremely confident during the interview. O B. I interview well. I

27. You tell a joke and everyone laughs. PsG A. The joke was funny. O B. My timing was perfect. I

28. Your boss gives you too little time tin which to finish a project, PvG but you get it finished anyway.

A. I am good at my job. O B. I am an efficient person. I

29. Youíve been feeling run-down lately. PmB

A. I never get a chance to relax. I B. I was exceptionally busy this week. O

30. You ask someone to dance and he/she says no. PsB

A. I am not a good enough dancer. I B. He/she doesnít like to dance. O

31. You save a person from choking to death. PvG A. I know a technique to stop someone from choking. O B. I know what to do in crisis situations. I

32. Your romantic partner wants to cool things off for a while. PvB

A. Iím too self-centered. I B. I donít spend enough time with him/her. O

33. A friend says something that hurts your feelings. PmB

A. She always blurts things out without thinking of others. I B. My friend was in a bad mood and took it out on me. O

34. Your employer comes to you for advice. PvG

A. I am an expert in the area about which I was asked. OB. I am good at giving advice. I

35. A friend thanks you for helping him/her get through a bad time. PvG

A. I enjoy helping him/her through tough times. O B. I care about people. I

36. You have a wonderful time at a party. PsG

A. Everyone was friendly. O B. I was friendly. I

37. Your doctor tells you that you are in good physical shape. PvG

A. I make sure I exercise frequently. O B. I am very health-conscious. I

38. Your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) takes you away for a PmG romantic weekend.

A. He/she needed to get away for a few days. O B. He/she likes to explore new areas. I

39. Your doctor tells you that you eat too much sugar. PsB

A. I donít pay much attention to my diet. I B. You canít avoid sugar, itís in everything. O

40. You are asked to head an important project. PmG

A. I just successfully complete a similar project O B. I am a good supervisor. I

41. You and your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) have been fighting a PsB great deal.

A. I have been feeling cranky and pressured lately. I B. He/she has been hostile lately. O

42. You fall down a great deal while skiing. PmB

A. Skiing is difficult. I B. The trails were icy. O

43. You win a prestigious award. PvG

A. I solved an important problem. O B. I was the best employee. I

44. Your stocks are at an all-time low. PvB

A. I didnít know much about the business climate at the time. I B. I made a poor choice of stocks. O

45. You win the lottery. PsG

A. It was pure chance. O B. I picked the right numbers. I

46. You gain weight over the holidays and you canít lose it. PmB

A. Diets donít work in the long run. IC. The diet I tried didnít work.

47. You are in the hospital and a few people come to visit. PsB

A. Iím irritable when I am sick. I B. My friends are negligent about things like that. O

48. They wonít honor your credit card at a store. PvB

A. I sometimes overestimate how much money I have. I B. I sometimes forget to pay my credit-card bill. O

Gender_______ # of extracurricular activities involved in______ GPA________



PmB__________ PmG___________

PvB___________ PvG____________


PsB_______________ PsG_____________

Total B______________ Total G_____________


Correlations Gender # of activities GPA Optimism LevelGender Pearson Correlation 1 .166 .016 -.038 Sig. (2-tailed) . .312 .930 .820 N 39 39 34 39# of activities Pearson Correlation .166 1 .275 .277 Sig. (2-tailed) .312 . .115 .088 N 39 39 34 39GPA Pearson Correlation .016 .275 1 .010 Sig. (2-tailed) .930 .115 . .957 N 34 34 34 34Optimism Level Pearson Correlation -.038 .277 .010 1 Sig. (2-tailed) .820 .088 .957 . N 39 39 34 39

Submitted 5/1/01 12:18:04 PM
Last Edited 5/1/01 1:02:25 PM
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