Mental contrasting of a negative future with a positive reality regulates state anxiety

Gunnar Brodersen, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Mental contrasting of a desired future with impeding reality is a self-regulatory strategy fostering goal pursuit. However, there is little research on mental contrasting of a negative future with a positive reality. We conducted two experiments, each with four experimental conditions, investigating the effects of mental contrasting a negative future with a positive reality on state anxiety: participants who mentally contrasted a negative future regarding a bacterial epidemic (Study 1, N = 199) or an idiosyncratic negative event (Study 2, N = 206) showed less state anxiety than participants who imagined the negative future only or who reverse contrasted; participants who mentally elaborated on the positive reality also showed less state anxiety. Our findings suggest that mental contrasting of a negative future helps people reduce disproportional anxiety regarding a negative future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1596
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume8
Issue numberSEP
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 20 2017

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Fantasies
  • Mental contrasting
  • Self-regulation
  • Thinking about the future

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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