Positive fantasies predict low academic achievement in disadvantaged students

Heather Barry Kappes, Gabriele Oettingen, Doris Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unlike other forms of positive thinking (e.g., expectations), research finds that positive fantasies (experiencing one's thoughts and mental images about the future positively) predict low effort and little success in several domains. However, for vocational education students of low socioeconomic status and minority ethnicity, for whom the present environment is especially difficult, perhaps it would be appropriate to indulge in positive fantasies that depict the future as bright and easily attained. Three studies show that this is not the case. Positive future fantasies measured early in the program predicted more days absent (Studies 2-3) and lower grades at the end of the program (Studies 1-3), even when adjusting for initial academic competence, expectations of successful achievement, and self-discipline. Expectations of successful achievement predicted fewer days absent and higher grades only when measured midway through the school year, once participants had experience with their own academic standing (Study 3). Results indicate that positive fantasies, which allow people to indulge in images of a bright future, predict poor achievement even in vocational students immersed in a particularly difficult environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-64
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Positive fantasies predict low academic achievement in disadvantaged students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this