Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 403–412 | Cite as

Mental contrasting facilitates academic performance in school children

  • Anton Gollwitzer
  • Gabriele OettingenEmail author
  • Teri A. Kirby
  • Angela L. Duckworth
  • Doris Mayer
Original Paper


Two brief intervention studies tested whether teaching students to mentally contrast a desired future with its present reality resulted in better academic performance than teaching students to only think about the desired future. German elementary school children (N = 49; Study 1) and US middle school children (N = 63; Study 2) from low-income neighborhoods who were taught mental contrasting achieved comparatively higher scores in learning foreign language vocabulary words after 2 weeks or 4 days, respectively. Results have implications for research on the self-regulation of commitment to solve assigned tasks in classroom settings, and for increasing academic performance in school children in low-income areas.


Mental contrasting Positive thinking Self-regulation Goal commitment Academic performance Behavior change Desired future 



We thank the teachers, students, and families at the schools where we conducted this research for their support and participation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anton Gollwitzer
    • 1
  • Gabriele Oettingen
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Teri A. Kirby
    • 2
  • Angela L. Duckworth
    • 3
  • Doris Mayer
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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