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The ability to project oneself into the future has previously been found to be related to happiness and anxiety. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the causal effect of deliberate mental time travel (MTT) on happiness and anxiety. More specifically, we address whether purposely engaging in positive, negative, or neutral future MTT would lead to different levels of happiness and anxiety. Results show a significant increase of happiness for subjects in the positive condition after 2 weeks but no changes in the negative or neutral condition. Additionally, while positive or negative MTT had no effect on anxiety, engaging in neutral MTT seems to significantly reduce stress over 15 days. These findings suggest that positive future MTT is not just a consequence of happiness and might be related to well-being in a causal fashion and provide a new approach in happiness boosting and stress-reducing activities.
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The Journal of Positive Psychology
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Back to the future: the effect of daily practice of mental time travel into the
future on happiness and anxiety
Jordi Quoidbach a; Alex M. Wood b; Michel Hansenne a
a Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of Liège, Belgium b School of Psychological Sciences,
University of Manchester, UK
Online Publication Date: 01 September 2009
To cite this Article Quoidbach, Jordi, Wood, Alex M. and Hansenne, Michel(2009)'Back to the future: the effect of daily practice of
mental time travel into the future on happiness and anxiety',The Journal of Positive Psychology,4:5,349 — 355
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/17439760902992365
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The Journal of Positive Psychology
Vol. 4, No. 5, September 2009, 349–355
Back to the future: the effect of daily practice of mental time travel into the future
on happiness and anxiety
Jordi Quoidbach
*, Alex M. Wood
and Michel Hansenne
Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of Lie
`ge, Belgium;
School of Psychological Sciences,
University of Manchester, UK
(Received 18 March 2008; final version received 27 February 2009)
The ability to project oneself into the future has previously been found to be related to happiness and anxiety.
The purpose of the present study was to investigate the causal effect of deliberate mental time travel (MTT) on
happiness and anxiety. More specifically, we address whether purposely engaging in positive, negative, or neutral
future MTT would lead to different levels of happiness and anxiety. Results show a significant increase of
happiness for subjects in the positive condition after 2 weeks but no changes in the negative or neutral condition.
Additionally, while positive or negative MTT had no effect on anxiety, engaging in neutral MTT seems to
significantly reduce stress over 15 days. These findings suggest that positive future MTT is not just a consequence
of happiness and might be related to well-being in a causal fashion and provide a new approach in happiness
boosting and stress-reducing activities.
Keywords: episodic future thinking; mental time travel; happiness; anxiety
Of the many abilities that humans possess, one of the
most amazing is the process by which we envision our
future. This ability to imagine personal future events
has been explored in a great variety of areas of
psychology and, depending on the field, has been
referred to under different names encompassing dif-
ferent aspects of the concept such as mental simulation
(e.g., Pham & Taylor, 1999; Taylor, Pham, Rivkin, &
Armor, 1998), future thinking (e.g., MacLeod & Byrne,
1996; MacLeod & Salaminiou, 2001), anticipation of
future experiences (e.g., MacLeod & Conway, 2005), or
goal striving (e.g., Sheldon & Elliot, 1999). Recently, a
fast-growing number of studies have addressed the
ability to envision the future under the term mental
time travel (MTT; e.g., D’Argembeau & van der
Linden, 2006; Quoidbach, Hansenne, & Mottet, 2008;
Suddendorf & Corballis, 2007; Tulving, 2002). MTT
refers to the faculty that allows humans to mentally
project themselves backward in time to relive, or
forward to pre-live, events (Suddendorf & Corballis,
1997). The ability to relive past events is also known as
episodic memory in the literature and has been
extensively investigated (e.g., Tulving, 2002, 2005),
while the ability to project the self forward in time to
pre-experience an event has been labeled episodic future
thinking (Atance & O’Neill, 2001). Past and future
travels rely on a common set of processes by which
past experiences are used to envision the future
(Atance & O’Neill, 2001; Buckner & Carroll, 2007;
Hassabis, Kumaran, Vann, & Maguire, 2007; Okuda
et al., 2003; Wheeler, Stuss, & Tulving, 1997), and both
importantly involve autonoetic consciousness, i.e., ‘the
kind of consciousness that mediates an individual’s
awareness of his or her existence and identity in
subjective time extending from the personal past
through the present to the personal future’ (Tulving,
1985, p. 1). Future MTT implies, therefore, a conscious
act of pre-experiencing future events involving the self
and located in specific time and space. In this way, it is
distinct from merely knowing that some event is likely
to happen and from the general way that one
apprehends the future (i.e., pessimism/optimism).
MTT into the future is considered as a crucial
ability for human beings (Gilbert, 2006; Gilbert &
Wilson, 2007; Suddendorf & Corballis, 1997, 2007;
Wheeler et al., 1997). Indeed, from an evolutionary
perspective, MTT offers a critical selective advantage
insofar as it enhances individuals’ flexibility in novel
situations and versatility to develop and adopt strate-
gic long-term plans to suit selected goals (Suddendorf
& Corballis, 2007). The ability to imagine personal
future events may also provide a motivational break
that counters a natural tendency to time discounting
and impulsive, opportunistic behavior. This capacity is
advantageous in the long term, especially given that
*Corresponding author. Email:
ISSN 1743–9760 print/ISSN 1743–9779 online
ß2009 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/17439760902992365
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humans depend on cooperation and coordination
(Boyer, 2008). Finally, most individuals’ decisions are
influenced by their (often biased) anticipated hedonic
reactions to imagined future events (i.e., affective
forecasting; Gilbert, 2006; Gilbert & Wilson, 2007;
Wilson & Gilbert, 2005).
Aside from the evolutionary point of view, MTT
into the future also plays an important role in our well-
being and happiness in daily life. Indeed, 12% of our
daily thoughts are about the future (Klinger & Cox,
1987) and this MTT is often pleasurable, as people
tend to imagine themselves achieving and succeeding
rather than fumbling or failing (see Gilbert, 2006). In
one study relating MTT into the future and positive
outcomes, MacLeod and Conway (2005) found that
positive future thinking correlated with subjective well-
being in the general population. The authors also
found a positive correlation between the amount of
positive projections a person could generate and the
size of his social network. Moreover, there is consid-
erable evidence that generating mental images of future
success and of the process to get there can sometimes
increase achievement motivation, effort, and perfor-
mance (Greitemeyer & Wu
¨rz, 2006; Pham & Taylor,
1999; Taylor et al., 1998; Ten Eyck, Labansat, Lord, &
Dansereau, 2006). A positive image of themselves in
the future can motivate action by helping people to
articulate their goals clearly and develop behaviors
that will allow them to fulfill these goals (Pham &
Taylor, 1999; Vasquez & Buehler, 2007). Concurrently,
writing about life goals was found to be associated
with a significant increase in subjective well-being
(King, 2001).
Conversely, there is also evidence from the other
end of the emotional spectrum that people with very
low levels of happiness have altered future-directed
thinking. A consistent finding is that depressed and
suicidal individuals differ from controls by their lack of
positive thoughts about the future while being no
different in the number of negative thoughts they
are able to generate (MacLeod & Byrne, 1996;
MacLeod, Pankhania, Lee, & Mitchell, 1997;
MacLeod & Salaminiou, 2001; MacLeod, Tata,
Kentish, & Jacobsen, 1997). Moreover, anxiety seems
to be associated with an increase in negative future
MTT but not fewer positive projections (Andersson,
Kyrre Svalastog, Kaldo, & Sarkohi, 2007; MacLeod &
Byrne, 1996; MacLeod et al., 1997). This finding is also
observed at the personality level with healthy indivi-
duals where anxiety-related dimensions, namely neu-
roticism and harm avoidance, were found to predict
the amount of negative future projections (Quoidbach,
Hansenne, & Mottet, 2008). These findings further
strengthen the importance of positive future-directed
thinking to well-being and happiness. However,
whereas findings relating positive future thinking and
happiness are relatively unambiguous, it should be
mentioned that negative future thinking does not
always have negative effects. Indeed, anticipating
unpleasant events can minimize their impact. Arntz,
van Eck, and de Jong (1992) showed that subjects who
received electric shocks of unpredictable intensity to
their right ankle (i.e., 17 painful electrical stimulations
of medium intensity, alternated with only three strong
stimulations) had higher subjective fear ratings and
autonomic responses (skin conductance response,
heart rate, and respiration) than the matched controls
who received 20 predictable strong stimulations. The
inability to anticipate a slightly negative future event
makes it more painful than an anticipated considerably
negative event. In addition, negative future thinking
helps to develop prudent and prophylactic behaviors
(Gilbert, 2006). Finally, studies on defensive pessimism
show that mentally playing through or reflecting on all
the possible negative outcomes for a given situation
helps anxious individuals to manage their anxiety, and
so it does not interfere with their performance (see for
a review Norem & Chang, 2002).
Foundationally, research on MTT into the future
and well-being must address the issue of whether
positive or negative episodic future thinking is a cause
of happiness or anxiety, per se, or merely a side effect
that people with high or low well-being frequently
experience. Indeed, previous studies on the topic have
only been correlational. Of course, the most direct
and unambiguous way to determine whether MTT
exerts a causal effect on happiness and anxiety would
be in the context of experimental studies in which
MTT was manipulated and its effects on measures of
happiness and anxiety were observed. This is the
purpose of the present study. More specifically, we
address whether focusing on positive, negative, or
neutral future thinking will lead to different levels of
happiness and anxiety. Based on the above findings,
we predict that self-guided, positive MTT daily
exercises will lead to heightened happiness over a
2-week period relative to a focus on negative or
neutral projections. As previous findings are contro-
versial concerning negative future thinking and
anxiety, showing both that negative MTT is related
to high anxiety and that it can sometimes reduce it,
the investigation of the effect of the daily practice of
MTT on anxiety is purely exploratory.
Subjects in the present study were recruited from the
local university workers via an intranet advertisement
asking them to participate in a study on how people
imagine the future. A total of 210 healthy adults
originally indicated their willingness to participate in
the study by completing the baseline measures of
350 J. Quoidbach et al.
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happiness and anxiety, and were randomly assigned to
one of the three experimental groups (positive projec-
tion, negative projection, and neutral projection) or to
the control group (no projection). Attrition was quite
prevalent in the experimental groups. Forty-three
participants never started the actual study and another
61 subjects were dropped from data analysis because of
missing or incomplete data,
leaving a total of 106
participants. This was not surprising given the
demanding daily nature of the task and the fact that
these subjects were unpaid volunteers. However, there
were no group differences in the exclusion/dropout rate
for each experimental group (
¼0.42; p¼0.98) and
no differences between subjects who dropped out and
those who did not regarding their initial level of
happiness and anxiety (p¼0.70 and p¼0.85, respec-
tively). The effective sample was made up of 69 women
with a mean age of 31.2 years (SD ¼10.76) and 37 men
with a mean age of 35.03 years (SD ¼14.8). The
experimental groups were composed of 15 subjects
(6 men) for the positive projection group, 16 subjects
(7 men) for the negative projection group, and 18
subjects (5 men) for the neutral projection group. The
control group was made up of 57 subjects (19 men). All
participants gave written, informed consent to partic-
ipate in the study.
After being given instructions and information about
the study procedure, participants were provided with
an individual login and password for the study website.
Participants were then invited when they first logged
on to complete the pre-test, which consisted of an
online version of the Subjective Happiness Scale
(Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999) and of the State Trait
Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, 1983). After that,
participants started receiving emails every day with a
link to their online daily projection questionnaire. A
first, reminding email was sent to every participant at
5 p.m. and another one was sent at 8 p.m. to
participants who had not yet completed their ques-
tionnaire. Participants had to complete their daily
questionnaire between 5 p.m. and midnight for 15
consecutive days. The first day was considered a
practice day and was not counted in the observation
period, resulting in a total of 14 daily reports that were
used in the analyses. Finally, participants were
contacted by email and asked to complete once again
the happiness and anxiety scales on the day following
their last daily questionnaire (post-test).
Beside the control group that did no intervention and
just had to complete the happiness and anxiety scales
twice in a 15-day interval, participants were randomly
assigned by the website program to one of the three
experimental conditions (positive, negative, or neutral
projections) and were provided with one of the three
following instructions:
(1) ‘Please try to imagine, in the most precise way,
four positive events that could reasonably happen
to you tomorrow. You can imagine all kinds of
positive events, from simple everyday pleasures
to very important positive events.’ Examples of
positive events imagined by participants were
as follows: ‘Before going to bed I could get an
SMS from my ex-boyfriend,’ ‘I can see myself
savoring meatballs and French fries at the
Rendez-Vous Cafe
´with my friend Evelyne
right after our Pilates workout at the gym’,
and ‘After a great job interview, the boss of the
company I applied to work for will tell me I got
the job.
(2) ‘Please try to imagine in the most precise way,
four negative events that could reasonably
happen to you tomorrow. You can imagine all
kinds of negative events, from everyday hassles
to very important negative events. Examples of
negative events imagined by participants were
as follows: ‘My hairdresser will ruin my hair
tomorrow while I’m already in a hurry for
Julie’s wedding,’ ‘When I take a shower
tomorrow morning, the water will suddenly
turn very cold for a few seconds,’ and ‘My
doctor will inform me that he just got the
results of the medical exam and that my recent
sight problem is caused by a tumor.’
(3) ‘Please try to imagine, in the most precise way,
four neutral and routine events that could
reasonably happen to you tomorrow. Imagined
events have to be things really neutral that you
are used to doing such as taking a shower, tying
your shoe laces, or turning on your computer.
Examples of neutral events imagined by parti-
cipants were as follows: ‘waking up at 9 a.m.,’
‘borrowing my friend’s cognitive neuroscience
book,’ ‘taking the bus to work’, and ‘brushing
my teeth.’
Depending on the condition, one of these instruc-
tions was written on the daily questionnaire, followed
by general additional instructions reminding partici-
pants that imagined events had to be specific (i.e., they
had to take place in a specific place at a specific
moment) and inviting them to take the time to think of
elements, namely, phenomenal characteristics, such as
where and when the event could take place, the people
and objects surrounding, other sensory details such as
sounds or smells, and emotions they could feel.
Instructions were followed by four blank
text boxes for participants to write a brief summary
The Journal of Positive Psychology 351
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of their future projections. For each projection,
participants were also asked to rate emotions they
would experience if the event was actually taking
place, on a 7-point scale ranging from 3 (extremely
negative) to þ3 (extremely positive).
Happiness was assessed by a French back-translated
version of the Subjective Happiness Scale
(Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999). The measure is com-
posed of four items and uses a 7-point Likert-type
scale. Examples of items include Compared to most of
my peers, I consider myself (from 1¼less happy to
7¼more happy)’ or Some people are generally not very
happy. Although they are not depressed, they never seem
as happy as they might be. To what extent does this
characterization describe you?(from 1¼not at all to
7¼a great deal).’ Lyubomirsky and Lepper (1999)
reported good internal consistency with alpha ()
ranging from 0.79 to 0.94. The internal consistency of
the French translation of the scale used in our sample
was also good with of 0.81.
Anxiety was assessed with the State-Trait Anxiety
Inventory (STAI) (Spielberger, 1983). The STAI
consists of two 20-item scales: the state and trait
anxiety scales. The trait anxiety (STAI-T) scale was
used in the current study and considers long-term
manifestations of anxiety. Items are rated on a 4-point
Likert scale (from ‘almost never,’ to ’almost always’).
The validated French version of the STAI has excellent
internal consistency and high retest reliability
(Schweitzer & Paulhan, 1990). The Cronbach’s alpha
() for the STAI-T in the current study was 0.94.
Manipulation check
As a reminder, participants were asked to rate for each
projection emotions they would experience if the event
were actually taking place. In order to check whether
each experimental condition (i.e., positive projection,
negative projection, and neutral projection) effectively
elicited differential emotional valence in projections, a
one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted
with the mean daily rating of emotional content of
projections as the dependent variable and the three
experimental conditions as the three levels of the
independent variable. The means and standard devia-
tions of the mean emotion of projections are depicted in
Table 1. Results showed that the manipulation was
effective, as the three experimental groups effectively
differed on the emotional content of their daily
projections (F(2, 46) ¼198.48, p50.0001). Post hoc
comparisons revealed that the positive group signifi-
cantly differed from the negative (p50.001) and the
neutral group (p50.001), and the negative group
significantly differed from the neutral group (p50.001).
In addition, there were no significant differences
between the four groups regarding their basic level of
happiness (F(3, 102) ¼0.31, p¼0.82) and anxiety
(F(3, 102) ¼1.40, p¼0.25).
Subjective happiness
Scores on subjective happiness scales for each group
before and after 2 weeks of daily projection are
presented in Figure 1. A two-way, repeated-measures
ANOVA with the factor of time as within factor and
with projection condition as between-subjects factor
was conducted. Results shows a significant effect of
time (F(1, 102) ¼7.87, p50.01) and a significant inter-
action (F(3, 102) ¼2.87, p¼0.04).
Table 1. Effect of experimental condition on 15-day mean emotion elicited by projections.
projections F(2, 50) p
Mean emotion elicited
by projections
1.81 1.5 0.63 200.49 50.0000
SD 0.51 0.49 0.44
Pre-test Post-test
Figure 1. Effect of MTT intervention on happiness across
experimental conditions.
352 J. Quoidbach et al.
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Comparisons yielded a significant increase in hap-
piness for the positive projection group (F(1, 102) ¼
8.13, p50.01). Modifications in the level of happiness
after the 2-week program for the negative projection
group (F(1, 102) ¼2.59, p¼0.11), the neutral projec-
tion group (F(1, 102) ¼0.58, p¼0.45), and the control
group (F(1, 102) ¼0.18, p¼0.67) were not significant.
Mean STAI scores for each group before and after the
2-week daily projection are presented in Figure 2. A
two-way, repeated-measures ANOVA with the factor
of time as within factor and with projection condition
as between-subjects factor was conducted. Results
yielded no significant effect of time (F(1, 102) ¼3.13,
p¼0.08) and no significant interaction either
(F(3, 102) ¼1.24, p¼0.30). Because there is a trend
toward significance for an effect of time, additional
comparisons were conducted. These analyses revealed a
significant reduction of anxiety in the neutral projection
group (F(1, 102) ¼5.64, p50.02) but no significant
changes in the positive group (F(1, 102) ¼0.11, p¼
0.75), the negative group (F(1, 102) ¼0.14, p¼0.71), or
the control group (F(1, 102) ¼2.90, p¼0.09).
Understanding the roots of well-being and scientifi-
cally developing and validating activities to improve it
are among the main goals of positive psychology. The
first purpose of the present study was to investigate the
direction of the causal relationship between MTT into
the future and happiness; that is, to examine whether
purposely engaging in positive future thinking could
boost one’s subjective sense of happiness over 15 days.
Results show that while participants who had to
imagine everyday neutral or negative events showed
no significant increase in their levels of happiness,
subjects in the positive condition were significantly
happier than 2 weeks earlier. This suggests that
positive episodic future thinking is not just a conse-
quence of happiness and might be related to well-being
in a causal fashion. Therefore, this intervention could
be usefully added to the growing number of scientif-
ically validated self-help tools (e.g., Emmons &
McCullough, 2003; Lyubomirsky, 2008), and further
studies should investigate its effect on depressed
patients. Additionally, though the relationship between
future MTT and well-being is well established (e.g.,
MacLeod & Conway, 2005; MacLeod & Salaminiou,
2001), the present research cannot exclude the possi-
bility that the observed increase in happiness is due to
the fact that participants in the positive MTT condi-
tion also had more positive cognitions and experiences
than the other groups. Future research should include
another positive cognitions control condition in order
to establish with certainty the specific key role played
by MTT. However, it should be mentioned that the
present results, though not significant, show a surpris-
ing increase in happiness in the negative condition.
A possible explanation could be that most of the
negative events imagined in the negative group did not
actually happen, a fact that could have led participants
to evaluate themselves as relatively lucky and, there-
fore, happy people. This finding raises the question of
how MTT might interact with affective forecasting.
For example, is the mere anticipation of good events
enough to increase happiness? Do imagined positive
events still lead to happiness when one is disappointed
by the actual events (as has been shown in research on
affective forecasting bias; see Wilson and Gilbert,
2005)? The differential impact of imagining events that
do or do not happen could be interestingly investigated
in the future.
The second aim of this study was to investigate the
effects of all three types of MTT into the future on
anxiety. No particular hypotheses were formulated at
this level given the fact that, though negative future
thinking seems to be associated with anxiety at the
clinical level (MacLeod & Byrne, 1996) and the
personality level (Quoidbach et al., 2008), it was also
found to be a way to cope with anxiety in some other
cases (Arntz et al., 1992; Norem & Chang, 2002). In the
present study, neither positive nor negative future
thinking practices had influence on levels of anxiety.
This absence of effect in the negative MTT group
seems to indicate that intentional negative future
thinking does not directly cause anxiety. Negative
thoughts about the future might therefore be
consequences rather than causes of trait anxiety.
Pre-test Post-test
Figure 2. Effect of MTT practice on anxiety across exper-
imental conditions.
The Journal of Positive Psychology 353
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Hence, the frequently observed relationship between
negative future thinking and anxiety (MacLeod &
Byrne, 1996; MacLeod et al., 1997; MacLeod &
Salaminiou, 2001; MacLeod et al., 1997; Quoidbach
et al., 2008) might be explained by the fact that
imagined negative events affect anxious people more
than others, either because the negative things they
think of are worse or because they are more sensitive
and therefore the subjective impact is greater, or both
these causes may apply. This explanation is in line with
recent findings indicating that subjects who scored high
in neuroticism experienced more emotion while ima-
gining negative future events (Quoidbach et al., 2008).
Unexpectedly, participants in the neutral MTT
group did show a significant reduction of their levels of
anxiety. This surprising result has yet to be explained,
as most of the literature on MTT and anxiety addresses
anticipation of negative events. A possible explanation
of this effect might lie in the structuring nature of
neutral MTT. Indeed, a qualitative analysis of the
written projections, using a formal coding procedure,
revealed that the content of subjects’ projections in the
neutral group were mainly related to daily routines
such as driving, eating or washing oneself (52%) and to
planning (i.e., things participants had to do the next
day such as going to the grocery store, picking up
children from school, or paying a visit to friends or
relatives; 44%). Thus, mentally preparing for and
organizing the upcoming day might have a significant
reducing effect on stress. This finding is in line with
previous findings that improving individuals’ planning
abilities reduces negative affect (MacLeod, Coates, &
Hetherton, 2008). Further studies could investigate this
kind of MTT as a way to cope with anxiety.
Before we conclude, several limitations of the
present study should be mentioned. First, the attrition
rate in the present study was quite high and, even
though there were no group differences in the
exclusion/dropout rate for each experimental group,
a possible selection effect cannot be excluded. Second,
the Nof the study is a bit small, though the statistical
analysis shows that it is large enough to obtain
significant results.
This research was supported by the French Community of
Belgium (ARC 06/11-340).
1. Due to the study website software requirements,
participants could only complete post-test happiness
and anxiety scales if they had completed all of their 15
daily questionnaires.
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... Une explication possible viendrait du fait que les personnes anxieuses sont plus propices à effectuer des anticipations d'évènements qui pourraient représenter une menace (Butler & Mathews, 1987 ;Miloyan, Pachana & Suddendorf, 2014 ;Quoidbach, Wood & Hansenne, 2009 ...
... Concernant ce dernier biais, il est contraire à la focalisation sur le futur habituellement observée dans les études sur l'anxiété (Butler & Mathews, 1988 ;Miloyan, Pachana & Suddendorf, 2014 ;Quoidbach, Wood & Hansenne, 2009 ). Ainsi, on s'attendrait à observer une meilleure reconnaissance des mots futurs. ...
Une métaphore mentale est une stratégie qui consiste à compléter la structure d’un concept avec des éléments structuraux d’un autre concept pour faciliter sa compréhension. Cette thèse vise à approfondir la compréhension de ce mécanisme, notamment en investiguant l’existence de métaphores mentales entre deux concepts abstraits, l’activation simultanée de multiples métaphores, et le rôle de l’attention et de la conscience dans ces processus. Les participants devaient effectuer des jugements de temps et de valence sur des verbes négatifs (« mourir ») ou positifs (« aimer ») et conjugués à l’imparfait ou au futur. Les jugements s’effectuaient en appuyant sur les touches gauche ou droite, ou vers l’avant ou l’arrière. Un effet de congruence passé-négatif/futur-positif a démontré que l’emprunt structurel peut s’effectuer entre deux concepts abstraits (temps et valence). Cet effet était toujours observable lorsque l’amorce était inconsciente. Les effets de congruence gauche-passé/droite-futur et gauche-négatif/droite-positif étaient observés principalement dans les tâches de temps et de valence, respectivement, démontrant l’importance de l’orientation de l’attention. Le traitement simultané de multiples métaphores a aussi pu être observé. Dans une seconde partie, nous étudions si les biais conceptuels liés à l’humeur sont congruents avec les représentations métaphoriques de la valence. Nos résultats pointent vers un biais passé associé à l’humeur dépressive et/ou anxieuse, mais pas nécessairement lié à la représentation Temps-Valence. L’ensemble de ces résultats est discuté au regard des différentes théories s’intéressant aux métaphores mentales.
... Extensive research has revealed that thinking positively about one's future increases mood and well-being (for a review, see Schubert et al., 2020). For instance, Quoidbach et al. (2009) found that participants reported increased experience of happiness following imagining positive events. Wang et al. (2014) found that participants who anticipated upward changes from the past to the future exhibited greater well-being. ...
Prior studies have shown that people imagine their personal future to be more positive than their country’s collective future. The present research extends the nascent literature by examining the valence and perceived control of personal and national future events in a new experimental paradigm, the cultural generalizability of the findings, and the relation of future thinking to psychological well-being. US college students (Study 1) and US and Turkish community participants (Study 2) imagined what might happen to them and their country in three time points (i.e., next week, next year, and in 10–15 years). They then rated the emotional valence and perceived control of the events and completed a psychological well-being measure. Both US and Turkish participants imagined their personal future to be more positive than their country’s future, whereas they attributed higher perceived control to their countries for national future events than to themselves for personal future events. The positivity of national (Study 1) and personal future events (Study 2) predicted better psychological well-being, whereas perceived control did not. These original findings enrich our theoretical understanding of future thinking.
... People with low happiness are more likely to exhibit negative emotions. Adverse events reduce happiness [3]. ...
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As a new word, happiness has been in peoples eyes for a long time. Many people, especially college students nowadays, are more or less troubled by happiness and attach great importance to happiness. This paper focuses on finding out the antecedent mechanism that affects the happiness of contemporary college students, exploring the reasons and analysing its influence. This is a simple thing. This paper has done a lot of surveys and consulted a lot of data. The purpose is to discover the reasons affecting college students happiness and let them know their expectations of happiness. The results showed that several factors influenced college students happiness. These factors include academic anxiety, employment patterns, social support, and thinking patterns. Based on the research results, this paper puts forward several practical meanings to promote college students happiness. For example, universities can develop and implement programs that promote social support and improve students coping skills. College students should look at these factors that affect their happiness and take corresponding measures to improve their happiness.
... For example, Holmes et al. (2009) showed that imagining a positive event increased positive mood and even protected against later negative mood induction. Furthermore, over a two-week period, Quoidbach et al. (2009) instructed participants to imagine in detail four positive events that could reasonably happen to them in the near future. Subjects' happiness increased within these 2 weeks compared to participants who had been instructed to image negative and or neutral future events (see Gamble et al., 2021; for similar results on positive affect). ...
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Future-oriented cognition plays a manifold role for adults’ mental health. The present study aimed to investigate the relationship between future-oriented cognition and mental health in N = 191 children aged between 3 and 7 years. Parents completed an online-questionnaire including children’s future-oriented cognition (e.g., episodic foresight; Children Future Thinking Questionnaire; CFTQ), children’s mental health problems (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; SDQ), and wellbeing (Parent rated Life Orientation Test of children; PLOT and Positive-Mental-Health Scale; PMH). More externalizing problems (especially hyperactivity) related to lower future oriented cognition. For mental wellbeing, higher levels of optimism were associated with higher episodic foresight. Future oriented cognition increased with age cross sectionally. This increase was flatter at higher levels of wellbeing (indicated by lower pessimism). Results are discussed considering findings on the role of future-oriented cognition for mental health in adults and adolescents. Suggestions for future work are presented regarding the direction of the observed links and underlying mechanisms.
... SA, like happiness, involves dynamic emotions (Quoidbach et al., 2009;Seligman, 2002) and is time dependent (Seligman, 2002). Therefore, a possible explanation for this finding lies in the possibility that the sudden lockdown translated into SA and affected the level of happiness reported by these women. ...
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The current study examined how state anxiety is related to social support (formal and informal), work–family conflict, and level of happiness among married mothers and single mothers by choice (SMBC) during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 crisis. The uniqueness of the present study lies in its comparison of married mothers and SMBC, whereas previous studies examined differences between single mothers, who are usually divorced, and married mothers. Moreover, the present research is the first to combine all relevant variables in one coherent study. A sample of 386 SMBC and 293 married mothers filled out a closed online questionnaire sent through social networks. The study findings show negative correlations between the level of social support, level of happiness, and type of support (friends, family, and significant others) and the level of state anxiety. Most women did not turn to formal sources of support such as aid and welfare agencies. Finally, a positive correlation was found between state anxiety and work–family conflict.
... Bryant and Veroff [8] discussed ten strategies facilitating or enhancing savoring, including interpersonal (e.g., talking about the event with others) and cognitive (e.g., intentionally storing details of the experience for later recall) techniques. Empirical research provided evidence that savoring interventions result in an increase in mental well-being (e.g., [28,29]). For instance, participants of a present-focused savoring intervention expressed more positive emotions after the intervention, compared with the control group [30]. ...
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Both gratitude and savoring the moment are considered to be well-established “well-being boosters” (WBBs). Each of them has a salient temporal reference: Gratitude is past-related, whereas savoring the moment refers to the present. The temporal match–mismatch model posits that time perspectives (TPs) moderate the effects of WBBs on well-being if they refer to the same temporal frame (e.g., gratitude and Past-Positive). Our study tested whether TPs moderate the effects of two positive interventions on positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). The participants (N = 174 individuals, 73% women) completed measures of TPs, PA, and NA, followed by a brief intervention of gratitude (N = 86) or savoring (N = 88). Subsequently, they completed the PA/NA measures again. Both interventions significantly decreased NA but did not foster PA. The magnitude of the shift in NA in the gratitude condition depended on the levels of past TPs: Individuals high in Past-Negative and low in Past-Positive displayed greater baseline NA than their counterparts; however, the difference was leveled after the gratitude intervention. No interaction effects between the present TPs and the savoring intervention were observed. The results suggest that practicing gratitude may diminish the undesirable consequences of negative views of the past.
... Regarding goal setting and planning, studies have found that there is a moderate to close relationship between goal setting, goal striving, and well-being (Schmuck & Sheldon, 2001). Studies have also demonstrated that pursuing goals (by following plans) enhances well-being as well as positive thoughts about the future (Quoidbach et al., 2009;Sheldon, 2001). ...
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Prospection is the ability to think about the future in order to guide behavior and gain desirable outcomes. Although theoretical research on the topic exists, there is a lack of practical application. We developed and evaluated a prospective coaching program in a subclinical sample with limited subjective well-being. Twenty-nine participants (Mage = 40.6 years, SD = 13.6; range 19–62 years) participated in three 3-h sessions of a prospective coaching intervention. In a between- and within-subject design, participants completed preintervention, postintervention, and follow-up questionnaires. We compared the effects to those in a waitlist control group with no intervention (n = 37). Linear mixed models revealed improvements in the primary variables subjective well-being and openness to the future. We also found effects in the secondary outcomes hopelessness, subjective stress, depression, positive affect, and optimism in the experimental group, but not in the waiting list control group. This pilot study, to our knowledge, is the first to prove the effectiveness of a prospective group coaching program on relevant outcomes in a subclinical sample. Further studies, for instance, with a larger sample, are needed to gain more insight on the effects of prospection in mental health promotion.
... Specific analyses found important factors influencing the promotion of PA in mental imagery: practicing mental imagery repeatedly (Blackwell et al., 2015;O'Donnell et al., 2017), including various sensory modalities (Holmes et al., 2008), imaging personally relevant situations, aspects or perspectives (Quoidbach et al., 2009) and employing a field perspective (Grol et al., 2017). ...
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Background Recent findings indicated that mental disorders are associated with both an up-regulation of negative affect and a down-regulation of positive affect (PA) as distinct processes. Established treatment approaches focus on the modification of problems and negative affect only. Experimental paradigms in healthy samples and research on strengths-based approaches showed that fostering PA may improve psychotherapy process and outcome. Specific and easily implementable interventions targeting PA in treatment sessions are scarce. Mental imagery was shown to be a promising strategy for boosting positive emotional experiences. Method The PACIfIC-study is planned as a longitudinal randomized-controlled trial in the context of cognitive behavioral therapy, implemented at a German outpatient training and research center. In the process analysis, trajectories of PA over the first twelve treatment sessions will be examined with weekly questionnaires. In the intervention analysis, a six-minute positive mental imagery intervention to enhance PA will be developed and tested. The intervention is implemented with loudspeakers at the beginning of each session for a standardized induction of PA. The experimental group will be compared to an active control group (neutral mental imagery) and treatment as usual. Procedures in all treatment arms are parallelized. Main outcomes after twelve sessions of psychotherapy will be psychosocial resources, resilience and self-esteem (theory-driven), as well as psychopathology and working alliance (secondary outcome). Multilevel modeling will be conducted to address the nested data structure. Conclusion Study results may have implications on the consideration of positive constructs in mental disorders and the implementation of strengths-based interventions in psychotherapy.
Negative future thinking pervades emotional disorders. This hybrid efficacy–effectiveness trial tested a four-session, scalable online cognitive-bias-modification program for training more positive episodic prediction. Nine hundred fifty-eight adults (73.3% female, 86.5% White, 83.4% from United States) were randomly assigned to positive conditions with ambiguous future scenarios that ended positively, 50/50 conditions that ended positively or negatively, or a control condition with neutral scenarios. As hypothesized (preregistration: ), positive-training participants improved more than control participants in negative expectancy bias ( d = −0.58), positive expectancy bias ( d = 0.80), and self-efficacy ( d = 0.29). Positive training was also superior to 50/50 training for expectancy bias and optimism ( d = 0.31). Training gains attenuated yet remained by 1-month follow-up. Unexpectedly, participants across conditions improved comparably in anxiety and depression symptoms and growth mindset. Targeting a transdiagnostic process with a scalable program may improve bias and outlook; however, further validation of outcome measures is required.
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Background Savoring, that is the ability to create and increase positive emotions, represents a promising approach to enhance subjective well-being (SWB) in emerging adults. This controlled study aims to investigate the preliminary effects of a self-help e-savoring intervention on increasing savoring beliefs and strategies and SWB in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods Forty-nine emerging adult participants were recruited using the snowball sampling method. The experimental group (n = 23) completed six online exercises (two exercises per week for three weeks) while the control group (n = 26) did not receive the intervention. Both groups filled out online questionnaires before and after the intervention. User experience and perceived usefulness of the intervention were assessed for the experimental group. Results A repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed a significant increase for the experimental group in savoring beliefs (especially toward the present and the future) and in positive emotions compared to the control group. The perspicuity, attractiveness, and efficiency of the online platform were very positively evaluated, and most participants rated the intervention as useful. Conclusions The results of this preliminary study together with the high level of adherence and the appreciation for the intervention indicate the potential of promoting online savoring and positive emotions in emerging adults. Future research could evaluate its long-term effects and verify its results with other age groups.
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This article contains the argument that the human ability to travel mentally in time constitutes a discontinuity between ourselves and other animals. Mental time travel comprises the mental reconstruction of personal events from the past (episodic memory) and the mental construction of possible events in the future. It is not an isolated module, but depends on the sophistication of other cognitive capacities, including self-awareness, meta-representation, mental attribution, understanding the perception-knowledge relationship, and the ability to dissociate imagined mental states from one's present mental state. These capacities are also important aspects of so-called theory of mind, and they appear to mature in children at around age 4. Furthermore, mental time travel is generative, involving the combination and recombination of familiar elements, and in this respect may have been a precursor to language. Current evidence, although indirect or based on anecdote rather than on systematic study, suggests that nonhuman animals, including the great apes, are confined to a "present" that is limited by their current drive states. In contrast, mental time travel by humans is relatively unconstrained and allows a more rapid and flexible adaptation to complex, changing environments than is afforded by instincts or conventional learning. Past and future events loom large in much of human thinking, giving rise to cultural, religious, and scientific concepts about origins, destiny, and time itself.
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In a variation on Pennebaker's writing paradigm, a sample of 81 undergraduates wrote about one of four topics for 20 minutes each day for 4 consecutive days. Participants were randomly assigned to write about their most traumatic life event, their best possible future self, both of these topics, or a nonemotional con- trol topic. Mood was measured before and after writing and health center data for illness were obtained with participant con- sent. Three weeks later, measures of subjective well-being were obtained. Writing about life goals was significantly less upset- ting than writing about trauma and was associated with a sig- nificant increase in subjective well-being. Five months after writ- ing, a significant interaction emerged such that writing about trauma, one's best possible self, or both were associated with decreased illness compared with controls. Results indicate that writing about self-regulatory topics can be associated with the same health benefits as writing about trauma.
The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
The chapter tackles the placement of self-reflective consciousness amongst the numberless gradations by Darwin. Discussions of self-consciousness inevitably lead to Descartes' dictum, "I think, therefore I am". The goal is a rapprochement between this view and the Cartesian view, emphasizing this kind of consciousness applicable only to humans. Descartes maintained that animals are unable to engage in self-reflection. Negative results of various ape language projects and broad advances in animal cognition suggest that Descartes was right about the uniqueness of language but that he was wrong about animal's capacity for thought and self-reflection. There is abundant evidence that nonhuman pirates can form representations and use them to solve problems. The concept of autonoetic consciousness, as Tulving calls it, seemed close to the construct of self-reflective consciousness and metacognition which was the concern. Thus, instead of focusing on language, more fundamental capabilities are considered-the origins of self-reflective consciousness.
The present study examined whether performing mental simulation fosters the achievement of personal health-related goals. College students were asked to choose either an easy or a difficult health goal. In addition, they were either assigned to a process simulation condition (simulating the steps to the goal), an outcome simulation condition (simulating the achievement of the goal), or to a passive control condition. Results indicated that both types of mental simulation enhanced the achievement of health-related goals, and proved especially effective at difficult goals. Given an easy goal, it did not make a difference if participants had performed mental simulations or not. The effect of mental simulation on the achievement of difficult health goals was mediated by enhanced motivation.
Mental simulations enhance the links between thought and action. The present research contrasted mental simulations that emphasize the process required to achieve a goal versus the outcome of goal achievement. For 5 to 7 days prior to a midterm examination, college freshmen mentally simulated either the process for doing well on the exam (good study habits) or simulated a desired outcome (getting a good grade) or both. A self-monitoring control condition was included. Results indicated that process simulation enhanced studying and improved grades; the latter effect was mediated by enhanced planning and reduced anxiety. Implications of process and outcome simulations for effective goal pursuit are discussed.
A study is reported that examined memory for past experiences and anticipation of future experiences within panic disorder patients (N = 17), depressed patients (N = 16), and controls (N = 17). Anticipation and recall of positive and negative experiences were examined by administering an adapted verbal fluency paradigm. Participants were asked to generate future and past, positive and negative experiences in response to various time-frame cues. Anxiety was associated with generating more negative experiences but not fewer positive experiences; depression was associated with generating fewer positive experiences but not more negative experiences. The patterns for recall of past experiences and anticipation of future experiences were very similar.