Well Self-Regulated People Use Mental Contrasting

A. Timur Sevincer, Philipp J. Mehl, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mentally contrasting a desired future with reality is a self-regulation strategy helping people manage their life by promoting selective goal pursuit: people pursue feasible futures and disengage from unfeasible ones. We investigated whether participants who effectively regulate their academic and everyday life spontaneously use mental contrasting. Indeed, students who were good self-regulators in the academic domain, as indicated by their high self-reported academic self-regulation skills, high need for achievement, and above-average grades mentally contrasted when writing about an important achievement-related wish (Study 1). So did participants who were good self-regulators in everyday life as indicated by their high self-reported generalized self-regulation skills and high need for cognition (Study 2). Results indicate that successful self-regulation is linked to spontaneous mental contrasting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-364
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Academic performance
  • Five-factor personality traits
  • Mental contrasting
  • Need for achievement
  • Need for cognition
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


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