The Life Orientation Test for Measuring Optimism

The Life Orientation Test is a valuable tool in clinical practice. That's because it provides, in a short time, information about a person's attributional style in relation to their coping methods.
The Life Orientation Test for Measuring Optimism

Last update: 24 March, 2022

Until relatively recently, optimism was a forgotten concept within the field of psychology. Fortunately, during the last two decades interest in the construct has grown remarkably. Today, The Life Orientation Test (LOT) is the main tool for measuring it.

In this article, we’re going to get take a look at the Life Orientation Tool and its structure, usefulness, and application possibilities in depth. In addition, we’ll define optimism and what elements of it are measured by this particular test.

optimistic woman

Attributional optimism and dispositional optimism

There are two different kinds of optimism. The first one is focused on attributional style and the second is on expectations. Attributional style concerns how the causes of different events are identified.

Those with a pessimistic attributional style tend to consider unpleasant events to be directly related to themselves. In fact, they believe that they possess immutable characteristics that make them unable to avoid these negative events again in the future.

On the other hand, those who maintain an optimistic attribution style manifest a tendency to judge that what happened has been caused by external factors. Therefore, they believe that, in the future, they’ll be able to intervene to stop these negative events. Alternatively, they consider that they’re caused by transient factors such as fatigue.

The definition of optimism measured by the Life Orientation Tool is dispositional optimism. This is the general tendency to believe that the future holds positive and not negative events.

From this perspective, optimistic people are those who tend to consider that the events that’ll occur in the future will be positive. On the other hand, pessimistic people tend to expect negative and unfavorable events.

The Life Orientation Test (LOT)

The LOT is an extremely simple and quick assessment tool. It consists of only ten statements (four of them fillers) about different ways of seeing life.

The individual has to select their degree of agreement with each statement using a Likert-type scale that ranges between 1 (completely disagree) and 5 (completely agree). Responses to all items are interpreted together to establish the level of dispositional optimism. The test has a two-factor structure:

The first of these measures pessimistic orientation. The statements of the test that represent this variable are the following:

  • If something can go wrong for me, it will.
  • I hardly ever expect things to go my way.
  • I rarely count on good things happening to me.

The second factor directly assesses optimistic orientation. The statements are as follows:

  • In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.
  • I’m always optimistic about my future.
  • Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.
Person taking the Life Orientation Test.

The usefulness of the vital orientation test

This instrument, despite its simplicity, has proven to be useful when measuring dispositional optimism. It also stands out for its discriminative capacity. In addition, it’s been shown that there’s a relationship between this measure and the coping strategies used by individuals.

On analyzing the relevant literature, we can identify three coping styles. The first of these focuses on the problem. It’s characterized by trying to reduce the environmental demand that’s generating stress. In other words, to try and solve the problem or, at least, try to reduce its impact.

Secondly, is the emotion-focused coping style. This involves striving to eliminate or minimize the negative feelings that are being experienced. Thirdly, avoidance coping involves using distraction techniques to try and avoid the problem so as not to think about it.

As well as measuring optimism, the LOT can also be used to identify coping styles. In fact, it’s been shown that people who score high on dispositional optimism tend to use problem-directed coping strategies, thus achieving greater success. In contrast, pessimistic individuals focus on their negative emotions and mentally distance themselves from their problems.

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  • Broche, Y., Rodríguez-Martín, B., López, K., Gómez, G., & Candelaria, N. (2012). Test Abreviado de Orientación Vital (LOT6). Validación de instrumentos psicológicos. Universidad Central” Marta Abreu” de las Villas: Editorial Feijóo.
  • Librán, E. C. (2002). Optimismo disposicional como predictor de estrategias de afrontamiento. Psicothema14(3), 544-550.