Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 321–323 | Cite as

Happiness, depression, and the Pollyanna principle

  • William N. Dember
  • Larry Penwell


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.


Beck Depression Inventory Generation Task Verbal Task List Task Modest Correlation 
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  1. Beck, A. T., Ward, C. H., Mendelson, M., Mock, J., & Erbaugh, J. An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1961, 4, 53–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Matlin, M. W., & Gawron, V. J. Individual differences in Pollyannaism. Journal of Personality Assessment, in press.Google Scholar
  3. Matlin, M. W., & Stang, D. J. The Pollyanna principle. Cambridge, Mass: Shenkman, 1979.Google Scholar

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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