Do emotions and thoughts affect performance?
  • The answer is Yes! But most of you already knew that.
  What is the evidence?
  • Applying the tenets of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman has been able unequivocally predict the victors of the 1986 MLB World Series, the 1988 Presidential elections, and much more.
  • He has been able to save and earn millions of dollars for big corporations by helping change recruiting processes and train successful attitudes respectively.
What about health? Can training positive psychology train health outcomes?
  • Madelon Visintainer was a nurse who was a student in Dr. Seligman’s lab. She set up the following experiment to investigate this further.
  • She had 3 groups of rats.
    • Group 1 (Learned helplessness group): These were rats that were trained to be helpless/pessimistic.
    • Group 2 (Trained mastery group): These were rats that were trained to that they had some measure of control over their situation.
    • Group 3 (Control group): These were rats that received not training of any sort.
  • She then injected the same amount of tumor cells into all 3 groups, and rigged the amount so that Group 3 would see 50% of the rats survive, and 50% pass away.
    • In the trained mastery group 70% beat the cancer
    • In the learned helplessness group, only 27% beat it
  • Having trained mastery as a young rat also helped immunize them against cancer when they were adults.


is the third, and often under-appreciated, leg in the formula to success – in addition to aptitude and drive. Those that display optimistic attitudes consistently out perform predictions based on aptitude testing (e.g., MCAT, SAT, etc.).

Optimism is a tool that can be used to improve health outcomes as studies have shown.

People often don’t have accurate insight into their preferred style of how they interpret life’s events: pessimistically or optimistically.

Research & writing: Dr. Taher Chugh

Last update:March 2020