IMAGE:  October 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 1
The Worst of All Possible Worlds 
 Written by
Sharla Stewart
Illustrations by Henrik Drescher 
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Morning and melancholia 
Geeks go Greek 
End of the Medical Marathon?
The worst of all possible worlds 

3 rms, future vu


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GRAPHIC:  The Worst of All Possible WorldsOptimist or pessimist? Take the test.

The Worst of All Possible Worlds

Optimist or pessimist? Take the test

Hone (or change) your strategy

<< Back to the feature

Not sure which strategy you use? Take Julie Norem's test, reprinted here from The Positive Power of Negative Thinking (Basic Books, 2001).

Think of a situation where you want to do your best. It may be related to work, to your social life, or to any of your goals. When you answer the following questions, please think about how you prepare for that kind of situation. Rate how true each statement is for you.


Not at all true of me
Very true of me

Be sure to enter a rating (1 through 7) into each field in order to receive an accurate score.

I often start out expecting the worst, even though I will probably do OK.

I worry about how things will turn out.

I carefully consider all the possible outcomes.

I often worry that I won't be able to carry through my intentions.

I spend lots of time imagining what could go wrong.

I imagine how I would feel if things went badly.

I try to picture how I could fix things if something went wrong.

I'm careful not to become overconfident in these situations.

I spend a lot of time planning when one of these situations is coming up.

I imagine how I would feel if things went well.

In these situations sometimes I worry more about looking like a fool than doing really well.

Considering what can go wrong helps me to prepare.

           Your Score:

This test may not work with older versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer.

To figure out where you stand, add your scores for all the questions.
Possible scores range from 12 to 84, and higher scores indicate a stronger tendency to use defensive pessimism.

  • If you score above 50, you would qualify as a defensive pessimist.
  • If you score below 30, you would qualify as a strategic optimist.
  • If you score between 30 and 50, you may use both strategies, or neither strategy consistently.
How you score will be influenced by the kind of situation you were thinking about when you answered the questions, because you may use different strategies in different situations.


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