Learned optimism

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Learned optimism is the opposite of learned helplessness. Coercive learning may lead to apathy, loss of the love of learning and loss of synaptic connections involved in generating the learn drive. A child coerced into learning may develop helplessness. In the opposite situation, positive knowledge may increase the optimistic frame of mind. For example, to know that we produce new brain cells throughout life, is an optimistic fact that helps one believe in the power of learning. A big storage of positive knowledge has a positive impact on the mind. Learned optimism also involves learning knowledge that may be not too pleasing (e.g. related to existential questions). However, all coherent knowledge can contribute to a stoic mindset associated with high contentment. See: Simple formula for happiness

The foundations of learned optimism may be undermined in childhood. When threats are self-dosed, they may lead to a mind that learns well how to handle stressful situations (see: Mechanics of eustress). When stress is overdosed, e.g. in compulsory schooling, we may get chronic stress, and the disruption in threat evaluation in problem valuation network. Any form of coercive training in stress resilience may lead to the opposite. A mind that is naturally prone to learned optimism may become prone to learned helplessness.

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This glossary entry is used to explain texts in SuperMemo Guru series on memory, learning, creativity, and problem solving