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Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research 7/2020

29-04-2019 | Original Article

My future is brighter than yours: the positivity bias in episodic future thinking and future self-images

Auteurs: Sinué Salgado, Dorthe Berntsen

Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 7/2020

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Abstract

Numerous studies on episodic future thinking have demonstrated that individuals perceive their future as more positive and idyllic than their past. It has been suggested that this positivity bias might serve a self-enhancement function. Yet, conflicting findings and lack of systematic studies on the generalizability of the phenomenon leave this interpretation uncertain. We provide the first systematic examination of the positivity bias across different domains and tasks of future thinking. First, we use the same tasks in two different domains of future thinking, representing an episodic (events) and a semantic dimension (self-images), respectively. Second, we use two different measures of positivity bias (i.e., frequency of positive versus negative instances and their distance from present). Third, we contrast each measure in each domain for events/self-images related to self versus an acquaintance. Experiments 1 and 2 showed a strong, general tendency for the generation of positive future events/self-images, but most pronounced for self, relative to an acquaintance. Experiments 3 and 4 demonstrated that positive future events/self-images were dated closer to present, whereas negative ones were pushed further into the future, but only for self and not for an acquaintance. Our results support the idea that the positivity bias in future thinking serves a self-enhancement function and that this bias likely represents a similar underlying motivational mechanism across different domains of future thinking, whether episodic or semantic. The findings add to our understanding of the motivational functions served by different forms of future thoughts in relation to the self.

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Voetnoten
1
Given that the number of generated events varied across participants, we ran the analysis once more using the proportion of the events in each valence category rather than the raw frequency. The patterns and results did not change.
 
2
As in Experiment 1, as the number of generated future self-images varied across participants, we ran the analysis once more using the proportion of the events in each valence category rather than the raw frequency. The patterns and results did not change.
 
Literatuur
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Metagegevens
Titel
My future is brighter than yours: the positivity bias in episodic future thinking and future self-images
Auteurs
Sinué Salgado
Dorthe Berntsen
Publicatiedatum
29-04-2019
Uitgeverij
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Gepubliceerd in
Psychological Research / Uitgave 7/2020
Print ISSN: 0340-0727
Elektronisch ISSN: 1430-2772
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01189-z