Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 321–333 | Cite as

Thoughts about a successful future encourage action in the face of challenge

  • Mesmin DestinEmail author
  • Vida M. Manzo
  • Sarah S. M. Townsend
Original Paper


College environments can put lower socioeconomic status (SES) female students at particular risk of withdrawing during challenging academic situations. However, thinking about reaching a successful future identity may encourage these students to take action rather than withdraw. In a laboratory experiment, we tested the hypothesis that imagining a successful future identity would help lower SES female students to actively and successfully confront challenging tasks (i.e., a mock student–faculty interaction and difficult academic test). As predicted, when future identities were cued rather than past identities, lower SES female students demonstrated greater action readiness. Specifically, they showed more expansive body posture during the mock interaction and more attempts to complete the academic test, which led to better performance. The motivation to take action among higher SES and male students, who are at lower risk of vulnerability in college environments, was not influenced by future identities.


Future identity Action readiness Socioeconomic status Student–faculty interactions 

Supplementary material

11031_2017_9664_MOESM1_ESM.docx (39 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 38 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mesmin Destin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vida M. Manzo
    • 1
  • Sarah S. M. Townsend
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Marshall School of BusinessUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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