The power of prospection: mental contrasting and behavior change

Gabriele Oettingen, Klaus Michael Reininger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People often immerse themselves in dreams and fantasies about a desired future. Though such future fantasies are pleasant, they do not necessarily lead to the effort required to attain the desired future. Indeed, the more positively people fantasize about their desired futures, the less effort they invest and the less successful they are in realizing these futures. However, when fantasies about a desired future are complemented with a clear sense of reality, people find the direction and energy needed to realize their fantasies. We review Fantasy Realization Theory, which explicates these ideas and led to the discovery of mental contrasting future and reality, a self-regulation strategy of behavior change. Mental contrasting helps people figure out what they really want and wisely select, commit to, and actively pursue prioritized wishes while constructively dealing with setbacks. It helps them live a rewarding life through work, play, health, and relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-604
Number of pages14
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • behavior change
  • expectations
  • fantasy
  • goals
  • mental contrasting
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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