Contagious Optimism

Mike Davies.jpg
Mike Davies of Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners coined this term for our Attainable Utopias workshop in September 2003

Optimism invites optimism

  • One way to explain this idea is with systems theories and the idea of feedback.
  • In systems thinking, many self-regulatory processes operate with what is called negative feedback.
  • In a negative feedback system, whenever a given trend increases, compensatory processes automatically act to reduce it.
  • If it reduces too much then these same processes serve to brings it back to an optimum position.
  • A simple example is the thermostat. (See article on wisdom and the thermostat).
  • By contrast, positive feedback works to augment a given trend.
  • Therefore, when positive feedback occurs there is usually a 'runaway' or 'avalanche' effect.
  • Optimism is often part of this positive feedback process that spreads itself within a given group of people.
  • We may therefore think of it as 'contagious'.
  • Pessimism is also 'contagious', but it usually has fewer helpful outcomes.
  • Utlimately, this process can build trust...and in extremis...unconditional love

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