Pollyanna Principle


The name derives from the 1913 novel Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. She describes a girl who plays the “glad game” – trying to find something to be glad about in every situation. The book was later made into a 4 part mini-series and this is where I first encountered Pollyanna.

Since I first met Pollyanna I’ve always tried to play the “glad game” and I’m sure it annoys the shit out of my more balanced friends.

Pollyanna gets a set of crutches. She doesn’t need them so instead of getting upset about the useless gift she is glad about the fact that she doesn’t need them.

It’s the silver-lining on every dark cloud, there is always something positive to find in every bad situation, you just need to look for it.

I know it’s difficult to apply this principle. And you are probably thinking this is the biggest BS you’ve ever read. But once you start applying the Polyanna principle it’s hard to stay knocked down when life throws you.

Is having or trying to apply pollyannaism annoying to the people around me? I don’t know, for some it might lessen a tough situation. Others might just want to throw a shoe at me.


Some history on the theory from wikipedia

The Pollyanna principle (also called Pollyannaism or positivity bias) is the tendency for people to remember pleasant items more accurately than unpleasant ones. Research indicates that, at the subconscious level, the mind has a tendency to focus on the optimistic while, at the conscious level, it has a tendency to focus on the negative. This subconscious bias towards the positive is often described as the Pollyanna principle.

An early use of the name “Pollyanna” in psychological literature was in 1969 by Boucher and Osgood who described a Pollyanna hypothesis as a universal human tendency to use evaluatively positive words more frequently and diversely than evaluatively negative words in communicating.

The Pollyanna principle was described by Matlin and Stang in 1978 using the archetype of Pollyanna more specifically as a psychological principle which portrays the positive bias people have when thinking of the past. According to the Pollyanna Principle, the brain processes information that is pleasing and agreeable in a more precise and exact manner as compared to unpleasant information. We actually tend to remember past experiences as more rosy than they actually occurred.

The researchers Margaret Matlin and David Stang provided substantial evidence of the Pollyanna Principle. They found that people expose themselves to positive stimuli and avoid negative stimuli, they take longer to recognize what is unpleasant or threatening than what is pleasant and safe, and they report that they encounter positive stimuli more frequently than they actually do. Matlin and Stang also determined that selective recall was a more likely occurrence when recall was delayed: the longer the delay, the more selective recall that occurred.

However, the Pollyanna principle does not apply to individuals suffering from depression or anxiety, who tend to either have more depressive realism or a negative bias.

Some links

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