Pollyanna's principle or the ability to focus only on positive things

Pollyanna's principle or the ability to focus only on positive things

Pollyanna's principle is based on Eleanor H. Porter's novels.The protagonist, a girl named Pollyanna, has the ability to focus only on the positive side of things. This iron optimism and determinant served as inspiration to define the bias that would allow us to live happier and connected with others.

Is it really a good thing to turn our gaze to the positivity that this psychological principle states?It is very likely that the majority of our readers seriously doubt it and display a certain skepticism. Sometimes, as we know, these colored glasses can cause us to lose certain points of our environment, some very important nuances that remove realism and objectivity to our vision.

"The game is about finding something you'll always be happy about."


The flourishing of positive psychology led by Martin Seligman is currently undergoing important reformulations.Organizations like Buckingham University (the world's first institution to train and train students in the foundations of this perspective) are changing some of their foundations. One of them concerns the definition of happiness.

In a way, we can say that the "new" positive psychology has abandoned the pretense of teaching us to be happier.The famous culture of happiness and all these books or works of personal help give way to a new format, to a new perspective.A perspective that provides us with tools to deal with negative things and adversity. Because in life, we can not always focus on this bright and optimistic side as Pollyanna did …

Pollyanna's principle: what is it?

After becoming an orphan, little Pollyanna was sent to her Aunt Polly's house, a strict and bitter woman. Instead of sinking into sadness, the girl did not hesitate to apply, day after day, this philosophy of life that her father had instilled in her when she was a child. A perspective that allowed him to turn his life into play and see only positive things.Whatever the difficulty of a situation. Pollyanna was able to solve and deal with any circumstance with the firmest optimism and the most joyful determination.

It is also important to emphasize Pollyanna's influence on others. Sooner or later, the most avaricious, apathetic or sad character ended up changing in the face of this luminous and sparkling personality. Eleanor H. Porter's books conveyed, as we see it, an absolute sublimation of positivism.Two psychologists were inspired in the 70s: Margaret Matlin and David Stang.

How are people who apply the Pollyanna principle?

  • In a study published in the 1980s, Matlin and Slang were able to see, for example, that people with obvious positivity bias took much longer to identify unpleasant and dangerous stimuli or negative events that occurred around them. them.
  • Pollyanna's principle tells us that after becoming fully aware of the facts and negative realities of life, a person chooses to focus only on the positive aspects.The rest does not matter.Furthermore,even if involved in a negative event, the person will try to change the situation to give it a positive hue.

A skewed memory centered on the positive

Dr. Steven Novella, a renowned neurophysiologist at Yale University, has done a great deal of research and study of what is known as false memory or storage errors so common in people. So, a more than curious fact about the Pollyanna principle or positivity bias is thatoptimistic people do not remember well the negative events of their past.

The quality of their memory is optimal, even perfect, with all the events considered as "positive".On the other hand, they do not store the painful and complex facts in the same way because they do not consider them significant.

Bias of positivity and language: we are all Pollyanna

This data is really curious.In 2014, Cornell University in New York conducted a study to determine whether our language, in general, tended towards Pollyanna's aggression or positivity / principle bias.Professor Peter Dodds and his team analyzed more than 100000 words in 10 different languages, even doing deep analyzes of interactions on social networks.

So,our language and the messages we send have a clearly positive emotional weight.These conclusions coincide with those established by the psychologists Matlin and Stang in the 1970s, namely thatpeople are showing "pollyannism".

Pollyanna Principle Reviews

Some psychologists prefer to talk about Pollyanna syndrome instead of Pollyanna's principle.Through this change of terminology, they seek to draw attention to the limitations or disturbing aspects of this psychological dimension pushed to the "extreme".

For example,if we choose to focus only on the most positive side of life, we will be able to demonstrate some incompetence when dealing with difficult situations.The principle of Pollyanna helps at certain times, it's true. Having a joyful and bright vision of things helps us to be motivated, that is no doubt, but to move forward in life, we must also know how to go through the negative moments and learn from them.

Our reality includes light and shade and we can not always choose the sunniest side.

So, what perspective to choose? Is it recommended to follow Pollyanna's philosophy of principle? The key to all of this, as always, lies in balance. In this intermediary gaze which is fixed on the luminous side of life but does not close in the face of difficulties.Positive psychology, in the end, is always inspiring. But sometimes, succeeding or failing or preventing certain things from happening to us does not depend 100% on our attitude.

All that glitters is not gold. We must therefore be ready to face any situation in the best possible way, knowing how to mix light, darkness and all scales of gray …

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