Sad mood promotes self-initiated mental contrasting of future and reality

Heather Barry Kappes, Gabriele Oettingen, Doris Mayer, Sam Maglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-regulation by mentally contrasting a positive future with negative reality leads people to differentiate in their goal commitments: They commit to goals when expectations of success are high and let go when expectations of success are low. On the contrary, when indulging in the positive future or dwelling on negative reality, people fail to consider expectations of success and do not form selective goal commitments (Oettingen, Pak, & Schnetter, 2001). Whereas prior research has examined the effects of experimentally induced mental contrasting, we address sad mood as a contextual influence promoting self-initiated mental contrasting. Across various mood inductions, sad moods-which are associated with problem solving strategies-facilitated self-initiated mental contrasting more than neutral moods (Studies 1, 5) or happy moods (Studies 2, 3, 4, 6). Importantly, mood did not affect the relation between mental contrasting and selective formation of goal commitment (Studies 5, 6). The results suggest that sad moods aid in self-regulation by making people self-initiate goal commitments that are sensitive to their expectations of success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1206-1222
Number of pages17
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Expectations
  • Goals
  • Indulging
  • Mental contrasting
  • Mood
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Sad mood promotes self-initiated mental contrasting of future and reality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this