Good World Belief

Good (vs. bad)

This primal concerns arguably the single most basic question anyone could ever ask: Is the world a good place?


And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 

— Bereshit (Genesis) 1:31, Torah, the moment before the first Sabbath

It’s a sad world we live in. 

— Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, c.a. 1000

We have always more goods than evils in this life. 

— René Descartes, Letter to Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, 1645

I see trees of green / red roses too / I see them bloom / for me and you. And I think to myself / What a wonderful world. 

— Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World, 1967

How Good Relates to the Other Primals

Good is the umbrella primal. Of 22 basic primal world beliefs, 17 are summarized by three primals (Safe, Enticing, and Alive); you can see these “Big Three” as the three main reasons for seeing the world as a Good (or bad) place. However, while Safe and Enticing are the meat and potatoes, Alive is just the gravy (i.e., the least important part of what it means to see the world as a good place).

Good does not weigh all qualities equally. For example, it is not mainly a question about beauty, though Beautiful is an important part of it. Likewise, it is not a question about justice, though Just is a part, too. Instead, the single most central idea to Good is Pleasurable. In fact, it was so similar that, statistically speaking, you can’t tell them apart.

Interpreting Good Scores

Please note that the ranges provided below are somewhat outdated and based on an early version of the Primals Inventory. They are provided for reference only.

Scores % of U.S. Implicit Reality Description
0-1.8 5% A miserable and ugly world Those scoring very low on Good see reality as very dangerous, ugly, mechanistic, meaningless, and without a role for them to play. For them, the only orientation towards life that’s not naïve is pessimism. In their view, pessimism says nothing about who they are on the inside but is simply the rational response to this world we all (presumably) share on the outside. For some who score this low, the world’s existence may not be worth it.
1.8-2.5 20% An unfortunate world Compared to peers, those scoring in this range see reality as typically ugly, not that interesting, and with a marked tendency to be dangerous. Some may also see events as imbued with intention and purpose, though that will vary. In general, pessimism is appropriate.
2.5-3.4 50% An OK world The average American falls at 2.9. Those in this range are the most flexible in how they interpret ambiguity and see both pessimism and optimism as rational and appropriate—different strokes. However, even within this range, where you fall may matter a lot. Because scores may vary considerably on Safe, Enticing, and Alive, different profiles suggest quite different approaches to life. For example, high Enticing and low Safe could make for “neurotic explorers;” low Enticing high Safe could make for “satisfied provincials,” though both may score equally on Good.
3.5-3.9 20% A good world Those in this range see the world as at least fairly safe and fairly enticing, though they can vary quite a bit on Alive. For them, the world beckons. The unknown is not that scary and probably wonderful. Pessimism makes little sense and, though they can understand some negativity, have difficulty connecting with negative people.
3.9-5 5% An incredible world In addition to seeing the world as typically safe and utterly fascinating, those in this range see life and reality as imbued with intention, meaning, and purpose. For them, the default assumption is that ambiguity hides incredible things to be thankful for, making everything wonderful until proven otherwise. To others, they can appear like idiot tourists in their own homeland. To themselves, they are the only people who “get it.” Pessimism is silly, psychosis, or part of a recovery journey; optimism is only sensible.

What Does Good Predict?

When people are in places they see as really bad (or really good) we would expect them to behave in certain ways. When people see the world as a really bad place (or a really good place), we see a similar pattern.

Good is highly related to optimism, life satisfaction, curiosity, agreeableness, and virtually all aspects of psychological well-beingeven subjectively reported physical health. Likewise, scoring low on Good (i.e., seeing the world as a bad place) is a risk factor for depression and many other mental health issues.

Though we don’t yet know where primals come from, we can definitely rule one thing out: seeing the world as Good is not a product of our material circumstances. Income and Good are related, but the relationship is very small. This small relationship may also be explained by Good causing someone to experience more professional success, instead of professional success causing one to see the world as Good.

Disclaimer: All this must be taken with a grain of salt. Research is ongoing.