Spontaneous Mental Contrasting and Selective Goal Pursuit

A. Timur Sevincer, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mental contrasting a desired future with reality is a self-regulation strategy that fosters selective goal pursuit; people pursue goals for which they have high expectations of success, and let go of those for which they have low expectations. Indulging in the future, dwelling on the reality, or contrasting the reality with the future lead to indiscriminate goal pursuit. We developed a content analytic measure to observe spontaneous mental contrasting in people writing about an important wish (Study 1). Just like induced mental contrasting, spontaneous mental contrasting predicted selective goal pursuit measured by self-reported performance (Study 2) and observed performance (Study 3). The developed coding scheme opens the way to investigating situation, person, and cultural predictors of spontaneous mental contrasting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1240-1254
Number of pages15
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • content analysis
  • expectations
  • goal pursuit
  • mental contrasting
  • performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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