Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 36–46 | Cite as

Implicit theories and motivational focus: Desired future versus present reality

  • A. Timur SevincerEmail author
  • Lena Kluge
  • Gabriele OettingenEmail author
Original Paper


People’s beliefs concerning their abilities differ. Incremental theorists believe their abilities (e.g., intelligence) are malleable; entity theorists believe their abilities are fixed (Dweck in Mindset: the new psychology of success. Random House, New York, 2007). On the basis that incremental theorists should emphasize improving their abilities for the future, whereas entity theorists should emphasize demonstrating their abilities in the present reality, we predicted that, when thinking about their wishes, compared to entity theorists, incremental theorists focus more toward the desired future than the present reality. We assessed participants’ motivational focus using a paradigm that differentiated how much they chose to imagine the desired future versus the present reality regarding an important wish (Kappes et al. in Emotion 11: 1206–1222, 2011). We found the predicted effect by manipulating (Study 1) and measuring implicit theories (Study 2), in the academic (Study 1) and in the sport domain (Study 2).


Entity theory Incremental theory Future Reality Self-regulatory thought Motivational focus 



Preparation of this article was supported by German Science Foundation grant OE 237/10-1 to Gabriele Oettingen. We thank Greta Wagner and Linus Wittmann for their help with collecting the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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