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The Motivating Function of Thinking About the Future



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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002 Vol 83 No 5 1198 1212 Copyright 2002 by the American Psychological Association Inc 0022 3514 02 5 00 DOI 10 1037 0022 3514 83 5 1198 The Motivating Function of Thinking About the Future Expectations Versus Fantasies Gabriele Oettingen Doris Mayer New York University and University of Hamburg University of Hamburg Two forms of thinking about the future are distinguished expectations versus fantasies Positive expectations judging a desired future as likely predicted high effort and successful performance but the reverse was true for positive fantasies experiencing one s thoughts and mental images about a desired future positively Participants were graduates looking for a job Study 1 students with a crush on a peer of the opposite sex Study 2 undergraduates anticipating an exam Study 3 and patients undergoing hip replacement surgery Study 4 Effort and performance were measured weeks or months up to 2 years after expectations and fantasies had been assessed Implications for the self regulation of effort and performance are discussed future in general will be positive or negative Scheier Carver 1992 Generalized expectations are also indirectly measured through a person s habitual use of causal attributions for past events Abramson Seligman Teasdale 1978 When attributions to positive events are more stable and global than attributions to negative events expectations are said to be optimistic Positive events can be expected to last longer and generalize more across situations than negative events C Peterson Seligman 1984 Expectations and performance are reciprocally determined Bandura 1978 High expectations of success lead to strong performance and strong performance leads to high expectations of success Expectations are thus informed by past experiences and thereby represent a person s performance history Bandura 1977 1997 Mischel 1973 Mischel Cantor Feldman 1996 Olson Roese Zanna 1996 Observed performances of others



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