A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies

Published: November, 2002

Investigator(s): Other Investigator(s)

Researcher(s): Oettingen, G. & Mayer, D.


Two forms of thinking about the future are distinguished: expectations versus fantasies. Positive expectations (judging a desired future as likely) predicted high effort and successful performance, but the reverse was true for positive fantasies (experiencing one's thoughts and mental images about a desired future positively). Participants were graduates looking for a job (Study 1), students with a crush on a peer of the opposite sex (Study 2), undergraduates anticipating an exam (Study 3), and patients undergoing hip-replacement surgery (Study 4). Effort and performance were measured weeks or months (up to 2 yrs) after expectations and fantasies had been assessed. Implications for the self-regulation of effort and performance are discussed.

JTF grant funded: No