Thinking About the Future: Positive and Negative Effects on Consumer Judgment and Well-Being

Session Chair: Cecile / Gergana (co-chairs) Cho / Yordanova, Columbia University / University of Pittsburgh
Discussion Leader: Peter Gollwitzer, New York University / University of Konstanz

Session Title:  Thinking about the Future:  Positive and Negative Effects on Consumer Judgment and Well-being


Motivational Impact of Thinking about the Future:  Expectation versus Fantasies

Gabriele Oettingen (New York University/University of Hamburg)


Based on William James’s (1890/1950) distinction between beliefs and images, two forms of thinking about the future are distinguished: expectations versus fantasies. It is reasoned and observed that positive expectations (judging a desired future as likely) predict high effort and successful performance; but that positive fantasies (experiencing one’s thoughts and mental images about a desired future positively) predict low effort and little performance. I will present typical studies from three domains, the health, the interpersonal, and the achievement domain. Participants are patients undergoing hip-replacement surgery, students with a crush on a peer of the opposite sex, and graduate looking for job. Findings are discussed with respect to how positive fantasies about the future impact different tasks in everyday life.



Expectations About the Future:

Examination of Consumers’ Tendency to Elaborate on Potential Future Outcomes

Gergana Yordanova,  J. Jefferey Inman, John Hulland (University of Pittsburgh)


In this research we examine a new construct dealing with individuals’ tendency to elaborate on potential future outcomes, and develop the Elaboration on Potential Outcomes (EPO) scale as a measure of this construct.  EPO captures the degree to which individuals both generate positive and/or negative consequences of their behavior and evaluate the likelihood and importance of these consequences. In a series of studies we examine how outcome elaboration relates to various consumer traits and behaviors such as exercise of self-control, procrastination, compulsive buying, credit card debt, obesity, and healthy lifestyle. We also show that people’s tendency to think about potential consequences predicts the type of information processing they engage in when making an important consumer decision, and their likelihood to undertake a risky endeavor.

Motivated Expectation Setting and Its Unintended Consequence on

Cecile Cho, Gita V. Johar (Columbia University)


This research is concerned with the notion that consumers actively seek to manage their expectation and examines what the consequence of such motivated expectation setting has on satisfaction. The basic premise of this research is that people’s judgments of satisfaction is driven not so much by performance outcome alone but by an interaction between one's expectation and reference point for future outcome.  We predict and find consistent evidence that having a low performance outcome does not necessarily lead to
lower satisfaction as compared to higher performance.  We suggest a "so-close" effect in which having a high expectation confirmed (hence high performance) generates counterfactual thoughts of how things could have been better, hence negatively affecting satisfaction. Implications for consumer judgments of satisfaction and happiness
are discussed.

[ to cite ]:
Session Chair: Cecile / Gergana (co-chairs) Cho / Yordanova and Discussion Leader: Peter Gollwitzer (2006) ,"Thinking About the Future: Positive and Negative Effects on Consumer Judgment and Well-Being", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 33, eds. Connie Pechmann and Linda Price, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 475-478.