Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Anne McIntyre

Committee Members

Debora Baldwin, John Lounsbury, Robert Kronick

Abstract

Academic optimism is the general tendency to expect positive outcomes in terms of personal, current and future academic experiences. Academic optimism is similar to general optimism with the exception of academic optimism’s focus on the academic life domain. The study investigated the psychometric properties of the newly constructed Academic Optimism Scale (AOS), as well as the relationships among academic optimism, general optimism, self-esteem and depressive symptoms in relation to academic achievement. The within-subject design included 292 college students at Time with 160 of those students returning for Time 2. At each time, participants completed a general optimism, academic optimism, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms measure; in addition, participants allowed the researchers access to their college academic performance. Results indicated the AOS was a sound scale with sufficient internal consistency, external validity, and unique predictive strength. Academic optimism was a stronger predictor of academic achievement than general optimism. Academic optimism was a unique predictor of academic achievement such that the greater the academic optimism the greater the academic achievement. The findings from this study highlight the strength of utilizing a domain-specific construct (in this case, academic optimism) in place of a general construct (e.g., general optimism) in understanding specific behavior. Potential implications of utilizing a domain-specific in academic and clinical arenas are discussed.

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