Taking Responsibility for Others and Use of Mental Contrasting

A. Timur Sevincer, Tanja Musik, Alina Degener, Annika Greinert, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mentally contrasting a desired future with present reality fosters selective goal pursuit: People pursue feasible desired futures and let go from unfeasible ones. We investigated whether people are more inclined to spontaneously use mental contrasting when they feel responsibility. Studies 1 and 2 provided correlational evidence: Employees who felt responsible for completing an important team project (Study 1) and MTurk users who felt and actively took social responsibility (Study 2) were more inclined to use mental contrasting. Studies 3 and 4 added experimental evidence: Students who were instructed to imagine responsibility for giving an excellent class presentation in a group or alone (Study 3) and participants who elaborated on an idiosyncratic wish that involved responsibility for others or themselves tended to use mental contrasting (Study 4). Apparently, people who feel or take responsibility for others, the society, or themselves are more likely to use mental contrasting as a self-regulation tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1219-1233
Number of pages15
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • content-analyses
  • future thinking
  • mental contrasting
  • responsibility
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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