The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies

Gabriele Oettingen, Doris Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two forms of thinking about the future are distinguished: expectations versus fantasies. Positive expectations (judging a desired future as likely) predicted high effort and successful performance, but the reverse was true for positive fantasies (experiencing one's thoughts and mental images about a desired future positively). Participants were graduates looking for a job (Study 1), students with a crush on a peer of the opposite sex (Study 2), undergraduates anticipating an exam (Study 3), and patients undergoing hip-replacement surgery (Study 4). Effort and performance were measured weeks or months (up to 2 years) after expectations and fantasies had been assessed. Implications for the self-regulation of effort and performance are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1198-1212
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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