Turning Fantasies About Positive and Negative Futures into Self-Improvement Goals
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- Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Thorpe, J.S. et al. Motiv Emot (2005) 29: 236. doi:10.1007/s11031-006-9016-y
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Contrasting fantasies about the future with reflections on reality that impedes fantasy realization creates a tight link between expectations of success and forming commitments to self-improvement goals. This effect applies to both fantasies about a positive future contrasted with impeding negative reality as well as fantasies about a negative future contrasted with impeding positive reality. In Study 1, with 63 student participants, contrasting positive fantasies about benefiting from a vocational training with negative reflections on reality impeding such benefits led to expectancy-dependent willingness to invest in the training, more so than indulging in the positive future and than dwelling on the negative reality. In Study 2, with 158 high school students from former East Berlin, contrasting negative, xenophobic fantasies about suffering from the influx of immigrants with positive reflections on reality impeding such suffering led to expectancy-dependent tolerance and willingness to integrate the immigrants. Findings are discussed in terms of how mental contrasting facilitates self-improvement and personal development by making people form expectancy-dependent goal commitments to approach positively-perceived as well as negatively-perceived futures.