Regulatory focus and thinking about the future versus reality.

A. Timur Sevincer, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People oriented toward promotion are concerned with changing (improving) their current state, while those oriented toward prevention are concerned with maintaining (not worsening) their current state (Higgins, 1997). Because a promotion orientation is directed at moving from the reality to a better future, whereas a prevention orientation is directed at keeping the reality, we predicted and found in 4 studies that when thinking about important personal wishes or concerns, promotion-oriented participants focused more on the future (vs. the reality) than prevention-oriented participants. Promotion-oriented participants also viewed the future more positively compared to their reality than prevention-oriented participants. We assessed focus toward the future and reality by asking participants to name and write about an important personal wish or concern and analyzing the content of their written texts. We observed the effects when we manipulated participants’ regulatory focus by asking them to generate promotion (vs. prevention) oriented concerns (Studies 1 and 2) and when we measured their chronic regulatory focus (Study 3). (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-344
Number of pages11
JournalMotivation Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • content-analyses
  • future thinking
  • prevention
  • promotion
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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