Culture and future thought

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ernst E. Boesch went beyond the limited conceptualization of thinking about the future in terms of expectancy judgments prevalent in empirical psychology during the past 50 years. He explicitly focused on fantasies and analyzed their main source called 'fantasm'. Based on the theory of thinking about the future (Oettingen, 1996, 1997a), it is demonstrated how important it is when predicting motivation and action to differentiate between expectancy judgments and free fantasies. Thinking about the future in terms of positive expectancy judgments fosters motivation and action, whereas positiveness in spontaneous fantasies about the future are a clear drawback. However, this detrimental effect can be stopped if free positive fantasies are mentally contrasted with reflections on the contradictory negative reality. Given these circumstances, free fantasies are turned into binding goals which motivate goal striving. The presented findings have intriguing implications for Boesch's action-theoretical ideas as much as Boesch's suggestion to link action theory with cultural psychology has important consequences for the present theorizing. It is speculated that cultures may be characterized in terms of future-oriented thinking and it is analyzed how these differences have an impact on various cultural phenomena discussed by Boesch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-381
Number of pages29
JournalCulture and Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997


  • Action
  • Expectation
  • Fantasy
  • Goal
  • Optimism
  • Self-regulatory thought
  • Thinking about the future

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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