Positive Thinking About the Future in Newspaper Reports and Presidential Addresses Predicts Economic Downturn

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Previous research has shown that positive thinking, in the form of fantasies about an idealized future, predicts low effort and poor performance. In the studies reported here, we used computerized content analysis of historical documents to investigate the relation between positive thinking about the future and economic development. During the financial crisis from 2007 to 2009, the more weekly newspaper articles in the economy page of USA Today contained positive thinking about the future, the more the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined in the subsequent week and 1 month later. In addition, between the New Deal era and the present time, the more presidential inaugural addresses contained positive thinking about the future, the more the gross domestic product and the employment rate declined in the presidents' subsequent tenures. These counterintuitive findings may help reveal the psychological processes that contribute to an economic crisis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1010-1017
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 04.2014
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • computerized content analysis, economic performance, financial crisis, goals, motivation, performance, positive thinking, presidential rhetoric, thinking about the future
  • Psychology