Optimism and pessimism are associated with important outcomes including health and depression. Yet it is unclear if these apparent polar opposites form a single dimension or reflect two distinct systems. The extent to which personality accounts for differences in optimism/pessimism is also controversial. Here, we addressed these questions in a genetically informative sample of 852 pairs of twins. Distinct genetic influences on optimism and pessimism were found. Significant family-level environment effects also emerged, accounting for much of the negative relationship between optimism and pessimism, as well as a link to neuroticism. A general positive genetics factor exerted significant links among both personality and life-orientation traits. Both optimism bias and pessimism also showed genetic variance distinct from all effects of personality and from each other.
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