Advertisement

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgments

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

References

  1. Adriaanse, M. A., Oettingen, G., Gollwitzer, P. M., Hennes, E. P., De Ridder, D. T. D., & De Wit, J. B. F. (2010). When planning is not enough: Fighting unhealthy snacking habits by mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII). European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 1277–1293. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, L. W., Jacobs, J., Schramm, S., & Splittgerber, F. (2000). School transitions: beginning of the end or a new beginning? International Journal of Educational Research, 33, 325–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson, J. W. (1974). Strength of motivation and efficiency of performance. In J. W. Atkinson & J. O. Raynor (Eds.), Motivation and achievement (pp. 193–218). Washington, DC: Winston.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, B. E., & Luthar, S. S. (2002). Social-emotional factors affecting achievement outcomes among disadvantaged students: Closing the achievement gap. Educational Psychologist, 37, 197–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bloch, D., & Merrit, J. (2003). The power of positive talk: Words to help every child succeed. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Blyth, D. A., Simmons, R. G., & Carlton-Ford, S. (1983). The adjustment of early adolescents to school transitions. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 3, 105–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christiansen, S., Oettingen, G., Dahme, B., & Klinger, R. (2010). A short goal-pursuit intervention to improve physical capacity: A randomized clinical trial in chronic back pain patients. Pain, 149, 444–452.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eccles, J. S., Lord, S., & Midgley, C. (1991). What are we doing to early adolescents? The impact of educational contexts on early adolescents. American Journal of Education. Special Issue: Development and Education across Adolescence, 99, 521–542.Google Scholar
  11. Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Havighurst, R. J. (1948/1972). Developmental tasks and education. New York: David McKay.Google Scholar
  13. Johannessen, K. B., Oettingen, G., & Mayer, D. (2010). Mental contrasting of a dieting wish improves self-reported health behaviour. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  14. Känd, E. (2007). Unlimited confidence. Full immersion hypnosis. Hypnosis events, LLC. Retrieved from http://www.hypnosisevents.com/self_hypnosis/self_hypnosis/files/self_confidence_hypnosis_cd.html.
  15. Kappes, A., & Oettingen, G. (2010). From wishes to goals: Mental contrasting connects future and reality. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  16. Kirk, D., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (in press). Mental contrasting promotes integrative bargaining. International Journal of Conflict Management.Google Scholar
  17. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  18. Mischel, W. (1973). Toward a cognitive social learning reconceptualization of personality. Psychological Review, 80, 252–283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Oettingen, G. (2000). Expectancy effects on behavior depend on self-regulatory thought. Social Cognition, 18, 101–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2001). Goal setting and goal striving. In A. Tesser, N. Schwarz (Vol. Eds.), M. Hewstone, & M. Brewer (Series Eds.), Intraindividual processes. Volume 1 of the Blackwell handbook in social psychology (pp. 329–347). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  21. Oettingen, G., & Mayer, D. (2002). The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1198–1212.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Sevincer, A. T., Stephens, E. J., Pak, H., & Hagenah, M. (2009). Mental contrasting and goal commitment: The mediating role of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 608–622.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Thorpe, J. (2010a). Self-regulation of commitment to reduce cigarette consumption: Mental contrasting of future and reality. Psychology and Health, 25, 961–977.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Thorpe, J. S., Janetzke, H., & Lorenz, S. (2005). Turning fantasies about positive and negative futures into self-improvement goals. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 237–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Oettingen, G., Pak, H., & Schnetter, K. (2001). Self-regulation of goal setting: Turning free fantasies about the future into binding goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 736–753.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Oettingen, G., & Stephens, E. J. (2009). Fantasies and motivationally intelligent goal setting. In G. B. Moskowitz & H. Grant (Eds.), The psychology of goals (pp. 153–178). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  27. Oettingen, G., Stephens, E. J., Mayer, D., & Brinkmann, B. (2010b). Mental contrasting and the self-regulation of helping relations. Social Cognition, 28, 490–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pajares, F. (2003). Self-efficacy beliefs, motivation, and achievement in writing: A review of the literature. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 19, 139–158.Google Scholar
  29. Schunk, D. H. (1991). Self-efficacy and academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26, 207–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stadler, G., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2009). Physical activity in women: Effects of a self-regulation intervention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36, 29–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stadler, G., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2010). Intervention effects of information and self-regulation on eating fruits and vegetables over two years. Health Psychology, 29, 274–283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stauffer, C. (n.d.). Beating school stress with positive thinking. Ezine @rticles. Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Beating-School-Stress-With-Positive-Thinking&id=2906051.

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

Personalised recommendations