Expectancy effects on behavior depend on self-regulatory thought

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Expectancy effects on behavior depend on whether relevant expectations are activated and used. When people contrast their fantasies about a positive future with negative aspects of impeding reality, a necessity to act is experienced that leads to the activation and use of expectations. When people only fantasize about a positive future or only ruminate about impeding reality, no necessity to act is experienced and expectations fail to be activated and used. In two experiments with different paradigms (a salience procedure and a reinterpretation procedure) and distinct fantasy themes (getting to know an attractive stranger and successfully combining work and family life), participants mentally contrasted a positive future with impeding reality, fantasized about a positive future, or ruminated about impeding reality. Expectations of success guided behavioral commitment towards fantasy realization only when a positive future was mentally contrasted with impeding reality. The findings have implications for the emergence of goals and the recent realism versus optimism debate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-129
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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