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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Nov;83(5):1198-212.

The motivating function of thinking about the future: expectations versus fantasies.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, New York University, New York 10003, USA.


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.

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