Demand to Act and Use of Mental Contrasting

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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 spontaneously use mental contrasting when the demand to act toward their desired future is high. Study 1 provided correlational evidence: The participants who planned to act most immediately were also those who used mental contrasting. Studies 2 and 3 added experimental evidence: Imagining an immediate (vs. no immediate) action and being confronted with the opportunity to perform an instrumental (vs. noninstrumental) action, respectively, led participants to mentally contrast. The findings have theoretical implications by suggesting that people initiate mental contrasting as a problem-solving strategy; they have applied implications for interventions teaching mental contrasting.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Psychology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)344-359
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 01.11.2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Hogrefe Publishing.

    Research areas

  • action, content analyses, future thinking, goal pursuit, mental contrasting, self-regulation
  • Psychology