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).
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In the paradigm by Kappes et al. (2011) employed here, students were asked to choose four out of eight named aspects. The four thought modes (mental contrasting, indulging, dwelling, and reverse contrasting) were identified on the basis of the four chosen aspects. However, one could also identify the thought modes on the basis of only the first two chosen aspects. In this case, participants who chose one future aspect followed by a reality aspect would be identified as mental contrasting, those who chose two future aspects as indulging, those who chose two reality aspects as dwelling, and those who chose one reality aspect followed by a future aspect as reverse contrasting. When we analyzed the data in this way the pattern did not change: More students in the incremental (vs. entity) condition tended to choose future-focused self-regulatory thought χ 2(1) = 3.07, p = .08 and fewer chose reality-focused self-regulatory thought χ 2(1) = 4.57, p = .03.
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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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Sevincer, A.T., Kluge, L. & Oettingen, G. Implicit theories and motivational focus: Desired future versus present reality. Motiv Emot 38, 36–46 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-013-9359-0
- Entity theory
- Incremental theory
- Self-regulatory thought
- Motivational focus