The constructs of optimism (assessed both directly as expectancies
and indirectly as attributional tendencies) and hope have
been examined in a great many studies. They have proven to
be quite useful as predictors of behavior and emotional experiences
in a wide variety of settings (Bandura,
et al., 2001; Peterson
& Bossio, 2001; Snyder,
2002). There is little question
that they are useful, in terms of accounting for substantial
variance in well-being (Carver
et al., 2005). There remains some
disagreement, however, about whether they are more useful
as constructs than are competitors, such as control, self-efficacy,
extraversion, and neuroticism.
It might be argued that the disagreement should be easy to resolve. Whichever construct does a better job of predicting relevant outcomes should be the construct of preference. However, that answer turns out to be too simplistic. There are several problems. One problem is that there may be diverse relevant outcomes, some of which are predicted better by one construct, others by another construct. Another problem is that even if prediction was better for one measure than for another, it might mean that the one measure is better than the other, not that one construct is better than the other.
Which construct a researcher prefers depends in part on which
theoretical background the researcher finds most congenial.
Given that there is a great diversity among theoretical analyses
of individual differences (Carver
& Scheier, 2004),
different people are likely to gravitate to different constructs.
Those who are most comfortable with the 5-factor model of
personality will tend to prefer extraversion and neuroticism;
those who are most fond of views that emphasize human agency
will tend to prefer control, self-efficacy, or hope. What
is clearest is not which specific construct is best, but rather
that this family of constructs is very useful. It will take
more work to sort out whether one of them is more useful than
another in a given context.