Self-regulation of goal setting: Turning free fantasies about the future into binding goals

Gabriele Oettingen, Karoline Schnetter, Hyeon Ju Pak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fantasy realization theory states that when people contrast their fantasies about a desired future with reflections on present reality, a necessity to act is induced that leads to the activation and use of relevant expectations. Strong goal commitment arises in light of favorable expectations, and weak goal commitment arises in light of unfavorable expectations. To the contrary, when people only fantasize about a desired future or only reflect on present reality, expectancy-independent moderate goal commitment emerges. Four experiments pertaining to various life domains supported these hypotheses. Strength of goal commitment was assessed in cognitive (e.g., making plans), affective (e.g., felt attachment), and behavioral terms (e.g., effort expenditure, quality of performance). Implications for theories on goal setting and goal striving are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-753
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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