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Rich and Co.

In Life/Business: Experience-Based Expectations = Good, Fantasies = Bad

Long article but good life lessons here, especially for family offices, plan sponsors, investors and advisors.  Much of this is counter-intuitive and counter pop ideas like “The Secret.”  

Very nice study covering students and elderly recovering from surgery.  It appears that past behavior DOES predict future behavior and experiences and much more accurately than fantasies.  How many investments, however, are made on the basic – not of expectations – but investing and financial fantasies?  Our comments below are in {bold}.  Some of the research’s insights:

  • Positive expectations predicted higher motivation and more success than negative expectations, but positive fantasies predicted lower motivation and less success than negative fantasies.
  • Negative fantasies about a desired future depict potential problems and setbacks related to an improved future
  • A combination of positive expectations and negative fantasies might be particularly motivating
  • Positive fantasies can have long-term costs with respect to a person’s personality development. 

THE MOTIVATING FUNCTION OF THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE: EXPECTATIONS VERSUS FANTASIES

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).  

Research consistently finds that:

  • optimistic thinking about the future fosters motivation and successful performance 
  • pessimistic thinking dampens motivation and successful performance 

Optimistic Thinking:

  • is associated with successful  cognitive and self-regulatory problem solving
  • with  prosocial and helping behavior, with setting high standards and  aspirations
  • with indicators of mental health—all of these factors are essential for well-being and personality development
  • hinders the emergence of acute and  chronic disease and slows its progress.

Such beliefs about the future, or expectancy judgments, are  conceptualized as:

  • self-efficacy expectations (i.e., whether one can perform a certain behavior in its relevant context
  • as outcome expectations (i.e., whether performing a certain behavior  will lead to the desired outcome
  • as general expectations (i.e., whether a certain event will occur, thereby  encompassing both efficacy and outcome expectations
  • or as generalized expectations (i.e., whether the future in general will be positive or negative

Generalized expectations are also indirectly measured through a person’s habitual use of causal attributions for past events.

  • When attributions to positive events are more stable and global than attributions to negative events, expectations are said to be optimistic
  • Positive  events can be expected to last longer and generalize more across  situations than negative events
  • Expectations and performance are reciprocally determined

High expectations of success lead to strong performance, and strong performance leads to high expectations of  success.  Expectations are thus informed by past experiences and  thereby represent a person’s performance history.  Observed performances of others, persuasive messages received by respected others, and experienced levels of arousal during performance are also known to influence expectations.

Alternative forms of thinking positively about the future, which are based less on past experiences, and thus are less informed by a person’s {actual} performance history, seem to be less beneficial for effortful action, performance, and well being.

For example, wishful thinking and other avoidant coping styles are linked to lower effort, performance, and well-being compared with planning and  confrontative coping styles. For example:

  • avoidance coping in cancer patients at diagnosis (e.g., “I try not to  think about it”) predicted disease progression 1 year later
  • in a recent prospective  study (over 2 years), HIV-negative and HIV-positive caregivers high in cognitive avoidance showed higher levels of physical symptoms
  • Moreover, avoiding or lacking information about upcoming medical  procedures is less beneficial than mentally facing the painful future events, for both children and adults.

Expectations Versus Fantasies
Wishful thinking about future stressors is linked to neuroticism, sadness, and anger,  and impedes the mastery of impending problems, especially when  mastery cannot be achieved with ignorance, but demands vigilance  and effortful action.  Students who reported to habitually deny stressful events felt more threatened by an upcoming exam than students who used less denial.

Experimental research on how self-regulatory thought affects task completion further suggests that positive thoughts are not always beneficial for effort and performance.

Goodhart (1986) reported unfavorable effects of positive task-related thoughts or  images on success in solving anagrams

  • The findings, however, were only observed in people who had not been asked to judge their past performance prior to solving the anagram (i.e., for those participants whose spontaneous images had not been overridden by their expectancy judgments based on the facts of the past)An  earlier study yielded similar findings
  • Participants imagining hypothetical failure before an  anagram task did better than people imagining hypothetical success
  • Yet this was true only if participants did not have to make expectancy judgments of failure or success prior to the anagram test
  • If they did formulate their performance expectations for the  anagram tasks, participants in the success condition fared better than those in the failure condition
  • Finally,…images of perfect mastery hurt performance in high-achieving students.

Expectations Versus Fantasies as Different Forms of Thinking About the Future
These studies suggest that there might be two forms of thinking about the future with different effects on motivation and performance.  More specifically, beliefs about the future (expectations) should be differentiated from images (fantasies)  depicting future events.

…we differentiate two kinds  of thinking about the future:

  • Beliefs (expectancy judgments) that assess probability of occurrence {based on actual prior experience and behavior}
  • Images (fantasies) that contain future events per se as they appear in the stream of  thought.
  • Positive expectancy judgments, then, are beliefs that a desired event is likely to occur
  • Positive fantasies about the future, in contrast, are defined as positively experienced images of future desired events that emerge in the stream of thought.

Positive fantasies, resembles “daydreams,”  that is, thoughts pertaining to immediate or longer range desires including instrumental activities to attain the  desired future.

Expectations Versus Fantasies and Their Relation to Motivation and Performance
Because positive expectations judge future events’ likelihood by applying past facts to future events, they are a valid basis for strong behavioral investment.
 

Positive fantasies, to the contrary, embellish future events regardless  of past performance and probability of future occurrences. Therefore, they fail to be a solid  basis for acting.  Moreover, positive fantasies about desired future  outcomes and about effortlessly moving toward them should seduce a person to mentally enjoy the desired future in the here and now, thereby yielding little motivation to implement the desired  future in actuality.

Finally, because positive fantasies conceal the necessity to act toward attaining the desired future, they will prevent a person from preparing for upcoming obstacles and temptations, and from planning how to overcome them.  Lacking preparatory action and planning should further compromise success.

Positive fantasy about a desired future can be:

  • Respondent versus operant (i.e., impulsive vs. volitional)coherent  versus incoherent (a well-integrated scene vs. shreds of thoughts)
  • the perspective can be I or me.

Of most importance, positive  fantasy can pertain to mentally enjoying future outcomes, and  to mentally enjoying a future smooth and effortless progress toward  that outcome. In other words, the positive versus negative  tone of one’s fantasies about the future can be based on mentally experiencing having attained the outcome, moving smoothly toward it, or both.

Regardless of whether positive fantasy is respondent or operant, coherent or incoherent, focuses on the me or on the  experiencing I, and whether it is outcome based or process based, it should lead to comparatively little effort and performance.

If, however, individuals begin questioning the unrestricted enjoyment of the desired outcome and its smooth attainment in more negatively toned fantasies, the desired future is no longer experienced  as merely enjoyable but as something to be achieved. People start to lay out  the road to success, prepare for setbacks and hindrances, and at the end will exert effort and show persistence.  

In sum, whereas positive  expectations of success predict effortful action and successful performance, positive fantasies about the future should predict the reverse.

Related Approaches
Positive fantasies, whether outcome or process, should be a  motivational burden, because they hamper motivation to implement the desired future and conceal the steps needed for its attainment.

Thus, the present work on positive versus negative fantasies differs from research on outcome versus process simulations, which finds superior effort and performance after process simulations (rehearsing the cumbersome steps needed to reach a set goal, e.g., getting  an A) than after outcome simulations (rehearsing the moment of  getting an A).  Rather than focusing on the differential effects of process simulations versus outcome simulations, the present approach focuses on the positivity of thoughts and images about the future and postulates that positive fantasies (outcome and process) are a motivational hindrance.

Further, positive fantasies need to be distinguished from illusory optimism.  Because positive fantasies are mute to future events’ reality, they cannot be taken as an indicator of illusory optimism.  Only expectations can be illusory, because they assess {predict} the future events’ reality. This assessment of reality, then, can be more or less realistic (accurate) or illusory (inaccurate).

Finally, positive fantasies differ from avoidant coping, among them denial and wishful thinking.

  • DENIAL refers to people refusing to believe that  stressful events have happened, acting as if they did not happen, and trying to convince themselves that they are not real
  • WISHFUL THINKING pertains to wishing a stressful  event or its emotional consequences away, or wishing to be a stronger person
  • POSITIVE FANTASIES, to  the contrary, assess the experienced positivity of mental images  about a not yet reached future, rather than reports about wishing past or ongoing stressful events to vanish.

Focus Of The Present Studies
Four studies examine the relation between positive future thought in terms of expectations versus fantasies, to effort and  successful performance. All four studies refer to changing the status quo toward mastering a developmental task or life task. Developmental tasks or life tasks arise at certain periods of the life span. They are contextual demands construed as desires, such as finishing a dissertation or finding a  marriage partner.  eople should thus find it easy to fantasize about a positive future implied in mastering the life task.

Moreover, life tasks are an ideal topic for the present studies, because they are hard to master. Fantasies about successfully solving such hard tasks should seduce people to mentally indulge in the successful future instead of taking on the hardships of  implementing it.  

Thus, life tasks are prone to show a negative relation between positive fantasies and success. To the contrary, in easy-to-master tasks that can be solved effortlessly and immediately (e.g., I stretch my hand to obtain a piece of cake), positive  fantasies should provide enough of an implicit pull effect to trigger  necessary action. The same is true for choices between promising and available alternatives (e.g., I decide to take one offer rather  than the other).

In sum, only when desired outcomes are hard to  come by, should positive fantasies seduce a person to mentally enjoy the desired future in the here and now instead of effortfully achieving the outcome in reality.

These considerations are in line with the work on delay of gratification, where  consummatory mental images fostered consummatory action for the immediate small reward (e.g., one marshmallow), but spoiled attaining the delayed large reward (two marshmallows).

Study 1: Expectations Versus Fantasies and Entering Professional Life
Expectations have been found to play an important role in regaining  employment. Individuals of different ages and educational backgrounds who had recently lost their job, but were confident about finding an adequate job after a short period of time, found such a position earlier than their less confident peersindividuals who had been out of work for more than a year, but who still had high expectations for finding a new position, did get a new job faster than those with low expectations of success.

An intervention program for strengthening self-efficacy expectations helped individuals  who had been out of work for more than 1.5 years to receive more job offers than members of a no-treatment control group.  Finally, graduating students with high expectations of success received more job offers than students with low expectations  of success.

Though the role of positive expectations of success in finding  work is amply demonstrated, the role of fantasy has been neglected.  We hypothesized that positive fantasies about successfully and effortlessly attaining the first step on one’s career ladder should curb the striving for job offers and limit success more than  less positive thoughts picturing hindrances and hardships in finding a first job.

Results

  • The two predictor variables—expectations  and fantasies—correlated positively (r .  .31, p .  .05)
  • Incentive value showed a moderately positive correlation with expectations and no correlation with fantasies.

The dependent variables—number of job offers received and amount of salary earned—correlated positively with each other (r .67) and positively with the number of applications sent out (r.33 and r .31).

Expectations Versus Fantasies And Performance:

  • students with high expectations of success received comparatively  more job offers and earned more money
  • students experiencing  positive fantasies, to the contrary, received comparatively fewer  job offers and earned less money
  • Participants experiencing positive fantasies had not tried as hard as students who also permitted negative thoughts about entering professional life. They reported sending out fewer job applications
  • the reported number of applications correlated positively with actually achieved success (rs .  .31).

Incentive Value. Finally, we repeated our analyses, using incentive value as a third predictor variable in the first step of our  regression equation, and the interaction between incentive value and fantasies as well as between incentive value and expectations,  in the second step. Incentive value did not affect the data pattern  nor did it qualify as a significant predictor.  Further, we did not observe significant interaction effects, save with respect to the dependent variable number of job offers received, where the negative relation to fantasies was more pronounced in participants for whom it was very important to find  an adequate job.

Discussion
Confirming the facilitating relation of positive expectations and success in finding work, the present results show that:

  • by comparison, participants with positive expectations over a period of 2 years had  received more job offers and enjoyed higher salaries
  • Participants who reported  frequently experiencing positive fantasies about their transition  into professional life were less successful in their job search over  a period of 2 years. They sent out fewer applications, were offered fewer jobs, and ultimately earned less money than students who  reported frequently experiencing fantasies that picture entering  professional life in a more negative tone.

Although participants with positive expectations were more  successful in mastering the life task of entering professional life, they had not sent out more job applications than those with negative expectations.  As high expectations of success reflect an already successful record, participants with high expectations of success trusting in a promising start of their professional future may have felt little need to send out many applications: A few select applications should suffice for reaching success. Indeed, number of job applications rather moderately correlated with success (number of job offers: r .  .33; amount of salary: r .  .31).  This relatively low correlation also explains why the negative relation between positively experienced fantasies and actual success was only partly mediated by fewer instrumental activities (i.e.,  number of applications).

Whereas Study 1 focused on the life task of entering professional life, Study 2 pertains to the life task of entering a romantic relationship. Furthermore, in Study 1 we asked participants to  reproduce relevant fantasies and then report how often they had  such fantasies in the recent past.

Study 2: Expectations Versus Fantasies and Entering a  Romantic Relationship
American college students who had a crush on a person of the opposite sex, but whom they were not dating yet, indicated their expectations of starting a relationship with their “crushee.”

College students who positively fantasize about their romantic success should be less likely to actively approach the adored person and have their love less successfully reciprocated, than those who allow their fantasies to cover the problems of obtaining  the crushee’s affection.  However, positive expectations of romantic success, reflecting romantic achievement in the past should be a good predictor for future romantic achievement.

The Predictive Power Of Expectations Versus Fantasies.

  • Students expecting success were more likely to start an intimate relationship with their crushee
  • Those who experienced positive  fantasies about future romantic success, to the contrary, were less  likely.  They also were less likely to confess their love
  • expectations tended to suppress the fantasy romantic success  relation.

Gender And Incentive Value. Controlling for gender and incentive  value did not change the findings nor did the two variables  emerge as significant predictors.

Discussion

  • Participants who entertained positive future thoughts in the form of expectations were more likely to start an intimate relationship with the adored person
  • participants who entertained positive future  thoughts in the form of fantasies were less likely to be  successful.

We had also asked whether students had confessed their love to their crushee between November and April.  Such an effort to discuss their crush openly is a sign of decisiveness that shows participants’ readiness to effortfully achieve their desired future. Students imagining a positive romantic future refrained from such decisiveness.

Expectations were unrelated to confession of love. Thus, present observations parallel findings in Study 1 (professional success), where expectations only negligibly predicted active efforts to  realize the desired future (number of job applications).

Study 3: Expectations Versus Fantasies  and Academic Success
Like professional and romantic success, academic success has been found to benefit from positive expectations.

  • High expectations  of success predict successful achievement in students of different ages and different academic backgrounds, and with respect  to a variety of indicators (e.g., standardized tests, course  grades, solving specific tasks, application of learning strategies)
  • Positively experienced fantasies, to the contrary,  should restrain effort and the preparing for hardships and obstacles.  Thus, students entertaining positive fantasies might improve  little in their schoolwork from midterm to final.

Dependent variables: Study effort and course grades. Study effort was assessed at the last class meeting before the final exam.   As a dependent variable, we used the  improvement in course grades from midterm to the final course grades. Over this 6-week period, 54 (46.2%) of the students improved in their grades, 24 students (20.4%) kept their grade, and 39 (33.3%) decreased in  their grades.

Results

The Predictive Power Of Expectations Versus Fantasies.

  • Expectations of success predicted comparatively high course grades and  strong effort
  • whereas positive fantasies tended to predict comparatively  low course grades and weak effort
  • The index,  the positivity scale, and the negativity scale all yielded the same  pattern of results, indicating that the presence of positive fantasies predicts low course grades and weak effort as does the absence of  negative fantasies, though the latter does not quite reach significance  for course grades.

As in the previous studies, mutual suppressor effects of expectation and fantasy emerged, indicated by slightly higher coefficients for partial than for raw correlations.

Gender And Incentive Value. For both course grades and effort, the inclusion of gender and incentive value left the pattern of  results unchanged. Incentive value, though, positively predicted  effort, indicating that students who deemed academic success as important reported investing more effort in  their studies.

Interaction effects between expectations and gender, and expectations and incentive, as well as between fantasy and gender, and fantasy and incentive predicting effort and course grades were all nonsignificant.

Effort As Mediator — the relation between fantasy and subsequent performance was significantly mediated by effort

Discussion

  • The reverse relation of expectations and fantasies to success was  observed for objective performance criteria: course grades
  • Further, analyses using all three fantasy scales, the positivity scale, the  negativity scale, and the difference between the positivity scale and the negativity scale (index) showed the predicted pattern of  results
  • These results rest on a strong negative correlation between the positivity and the negativity scales, indicating that participants experiencing their fantasies as positive did not experience them as  negative, and vice-versa.

The predictive relation between positive fantasy and low performance  was mediated by intense studying.  Apparently, intense  studying was a valid indicator of effort and effort was an effective  means to excelling one’s grades. …the findings of the  three studies point at effort as a mediator of the relation between  positive fantasy and low performance.

So far we have analyzed the role of thinking about the future in terms of expectation versus fantasy for mastering life tasks in the professional, interpersonal, and academic domain.  Participants of the three studies were young adults. Participants of the next study, then, are older adults, and the life task pertains to the health domain.  More specifically, inpatients just admitted for hip- replacement surgery were assessed for their recovery-related expectations and fantasies. Two weeks after surgery, shortly before  patients left the hospital, we asked physical therapists to report on  the degree of patients’ recovery.

Moreover, in Study 4, we content analyzed whether subjective  experiences of positive fantasies are reflected in participants’ writings containing idealization of a perfect future at the expense of  considering future hardships. Two independent raters to whom the  hypotheses were unknown scored to what extent participants in  their written responses already enjoyed their perfect recovery or questioned such a relieving outcome, and to what extent participants  enjoyed a smooth road to recovery versus questioned such an  unencumbered road to success. We hypothesized that positively  experienced fantasies will focus on a perfect outcome and a  smooth process rather than on an imperfect outcome and a cumbersome  process.

Study 4: Expectations Versus Fantasies and Recovery From Surgery
Supporting our contention that high expectations of success promote recovery from hip-replacement surgery, patients’ expectations  to gain high functional ability have been found to precede satisfaction with the outcome of hip-replacement surgeryhigh  efficacy beliefs predicted reduced pain and joint inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritisHigh expectations of success were followed by compliance with the medical regimen and improved health after cardiac transplant surgery even after controlling for preoperative health statusexpectations about a positive future in general predicted recovery from coronary artery bypass surgeryhigh recovery-related efficacy  expectations fostered mastery of various acute and chronic illnesses optimistic attributional style preceded good health in the short run and over the life span.

Two correlational studies support the notion of positive fantasies negatively predicting health outcomes.

The Predictive Power Of Expectations Versus Fantasies.
Positive expectation predicted successful recovery from hip-replacement surgery,  and the reverse was true for positive fantasy.….Gender, weight, and presurgery hip condition. Regression  analyses revealed that gender, weight (BMI), and presurgery hip  condition were not significant predictors of hip joint motion, nor did they together explain a significant portion of the variance (the three variables together explained 8%  of the variance

Expectations also correlated positively with idealization.  However, after controlling for experienced positivity of fantasies, the correlations significantly decreased, indicating that the positive correlation between ratings of  idealization and subjective expectations was mostly due to the  experienced positivity of fantasies.  In other words, ratings of  idealization are linked to the positivity of subjective fantasies rather than to the positivity of expectations.

Finally, when determining the predictive value of expectation:

  • fantasy, and rated idealization for recovery, the patterns of results for expectations and fantasy stayed untouched, whereas the relation between idealization and recovery was nonsignificant
  • the experienced positivity of fantasies rather  than the observable contents of these fantasies are responsible for the negative relation between fantasy and successfully realizing  one’s desired future
  • Finally, all patterns of results reported above apply regardless of whether fantasies are measured by the index, the positivity scale, or the negativity scale.

The reverse relation of expectation and fantasy to actual success was replicated in the health domain, with older participants, with independent raters (physical therapists) recording specific and general criteria of success, and with gender and other possibly  confounding variables (i.e., weight, presurgery functional hip condition) statistically controlled.  

As in Study 3, the presence of  positive thoughts and the absence of negative thoughts were precursors  of less success, as was the index, demonstrating that the more lopsided (i.e., the more positive than negative) participants experienced their fantasies, the worse the recovery.

Content analyses revealed that although people idealized outcome more than process, idealization of process was common.  Further, both idealized outcome and idealized process positively  related to experienced positivity of fantasies. Thus positive fantasies contain both outcome and process in its idealized form, that is, successful achievement as well as effortless and unencumbered  progress to attaining the desired future.

…positively experienced fantasies are based on imagining successful  outcomes and unencumbered process to reach these outcomes.  And of importance, it was the subjectively experienced positive  fantasies rather than the expressed idealization as picked up by the  raters that predicted low recovery.

General Discussion
Across four studies, we observed that positive expectations predicted higher motivation and more success than negative expectations, but positive fantasies predicted lower motivation and less success than negative fantasies.

Experienced positivity of fantasies predicted weak effort and low success over diverse periods of time (from 2 weeks to 2 years), for different measures of fantasies (frequency ratings, semiprojective  techniques), for positivity as well as negativity ratings, for different life domains (professional, interpersonal, academic, health), in samples of different ages (young adults, elderly), in samples tested in the laboratory and in institutions (classroom,  hospital), and in samples embedded in different countries (Germany, United States). The findings also support the notion that weak effort mediates the relation between positive fantasy and  little success.

  • All four studies pertained to the mastery of life tasks
  • As failures to solve impending life tasks affect  the mastery of subsequent life tasks
  • our findings imply that positive fantasies can have long-term costs with respect to a person’s personality development.

For example, the first job is the basis for successive  job positions a person holds during his or her life (Super & Hall,  1978), with both status and wages increasing over time. Thus our  findings of positive fantasies predicting low success in entering  professional life imply that positive fantasies may be problematic not only for the life task of beginning a career.  Moreover, an enduring transitional period between academic and professional life should adversely affect relations with parents and friends, financial and living conditions, and the advent of starting a family.  Similarly, it should strain well-being, high self-esteem, and professional  self-efficacy.

Thinking About the Future
Expectation-Fantasy Link — In all four studies, high expectations  of success related positively to the positivity of experienced fantasies.  High expectations of success might have facilitated positive fantasies about the future, and positive fantasies  (thoughts and images) might have raised respective expectations of  success.

Regardless of how the positive relation between expectations and fantasies emerged, the observed mutual suppressor effects suggest that future research should benefit from measuring  both expectations and fantasies, because they will predict behavior most clearly when the other type of thinking about the  future is assessed and (in case of a positive correlation) statistically  controlled.

The mutual suppressor effects further suggest that a combination of positive expectations and negative fantasies might be particularly motivating. Future studies need to investigate when and how people entertaining positive expectations spontaneously generate negative fantasies geared at preparing themselves for  upcoming difficulties and hindrances …people with illusory optimism readily turn their focus to  negative information when the negative information is serving their goal pursuit, suggesting that people who feel confident about attaining their goals might be in a good position to imagine relevant hindrances and hardships.

Potential Benefits Of Positive Fantasy — Positive fantasies do not always need to limit a person’s effort and successful performance.  When it comes to mentally exploring one’s possibilities to grow  and one’s opportunities to act—that is, when one wants to discover  one’s possible selves — positive fantasies might become useful because they are not closely tied to the hardships of reality.

Fredrickson (1998, 2001), in her broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, finds that emotions such as joy, interest, contentment, pride, and love broaden people’s thought-action repertoires, widen their array of thoughts and possible  actions, and thus build their personal resources.  Fredrickson explicitly contrasts this broaden-and-build function of positive emotions with models on specific action tendencies that see negative emotions promoting quick and decisive actions.

Positive fantasies should help people mentally experience the various possibilities and opportunities the future might bring, thereby broadening and building a person’s thought-action repertoire; negative fantasies orienting the person to the necessities of the here and now, then, help translate such a repertoire into effortful action and achieving success.  

Potential Harm Of Negative Fantasy — Just as positive fantasies might at times be beneficial, so can negative fantasies be detrimental.  Ruminative coping with depressed mood, for example, is a risk factor for severe and prolonged periods of depressive.  Ruminative thoughts to depression have been conceptualized  as thoughts that focus one’s attention on one’s depressive symptoms and their personal consequences, thus prolonging and extending the miserable current status quo into the far future.  Thus ruminative thoughts make people behave passively and keep them in extensive worries.

In contrast, negative fantasies {counter-factual thinking and scenarios} about a desired future depict potential problems and setbacks related to an improved future.  Though negative in tone, they should fail to be linked to depression and passivity, because they pertain to a constructive road to a better future. These negative fantasies about a desired future, then, seem to have the reverse effects than ruminative thoughts about one’s present depressive mood. Future studies have to disentangle the links between negative fantasies about a desired future, ruminative thoughts, and various indicators of depression.

Conclusion
Four studies investigated the predictive power of thinking about the future in terms of positive expectations versus positive fantasies. 

  • As positive expectations reflect past successes, they signal that investment in the future will pay off
  • Positive fantasies, to the contrary, lead people to mentally enjoy the desired future in the here and now, and thus curb investment and future success
  • In  studies on four different life tasks, positive expectations predicted high effort and performance, whereas positive fantasies predicted low effort and performance
  • Content analyses showed that positive fantasies are linked to idealizing a desired future outcome as well as the process to get there, and that it is the experience of high  positivity generated by thoughts and images that predicts low effort and little success.

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    Written by Rich and Co.

    January 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Posted in Uncategorized

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