Optimistic expectancies and cell-mediated immunity: the role of positive affect

Psychol Sci. 2010 Mar;21(3):448-55. doi: 10.1177/0956797610362061. Epub 2010 Feb 24.


Optimistic expectancies affect many psychosocial outcomes and may also predict immune system changes and health, but the nature and mechanisms of any such physiological effects have not been identified. The present study related law-school expectancies to cell-mediated immunity (CMI), examining the within- and between-person components of this relationship and affective mediators. First-year law students (N = 124) completed questionnaire measures of expectancies and affect and received delayed-type hypersensitivity skin tests at five time points. A positive relationship between optimistic expectancies and CMI occurred: Changes in optimism correlated with changes in CMI. Likewise, changes in optimism predicted changes in positive and, to a lesser degree, negative affect, but the relationship between optimism and immunity was partially accounted for only by positive affect. This dynamic relationship between expectancies and immunity has positive implications for psychological interventions to improve health, particularly those that increase positive affect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Candida / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / immunology
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology*
  • Immunocompetence / immunology
  • Intradermal Tests
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Mumps virus / immunology
  • Set, Psychology*


  • Antigens