Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 321–323

Happiness, depression, and the Pollyanna principle

  • William N. Dember
  • Larry Penwell

DOI: 10.3758/BF03334546

Cite this article as:
Dember, W.N. & Penwell, L. Bull. Psychon. Soc. (1980) 15: 321. doi:10.3758/BF03334546


People give precedence to pleasant over unpleasant events, a ubiquitous tendency called the Pollyanna principle. Thus, pleasant items are “spewed” early in list-generating tasks, and the more positive member of an antonym pair is uttered first. Not everyone does this. We have demonstrated modest correlations between the Pollyanna tendency on an antonym pair generation task and two happiness measures; a list-generation task yielded Pollyanna prin ciple results, but the two tasks were uncorrelated, and the list task was not correlated with happiness. Scores on the Beck Depression Inventory correlated negatively with happiness but not with either Pollyanna measure.

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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • William N. Dember
    • 1
  • Larry Penwell
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CincinnatiCincinnati

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