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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
; Alex M. Wood
; Michel Hansenne
Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of Liège, Belgium
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
ß 2009 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 (
¼ 0.42; p ¼ 0.98) and
no differences between subjects who dropped out and
those who did not regarding their initial level of
happiness and anxiety (p ¼ 0.70 and p ¼ 0.85, respec-
tively). The effective sample was made up of 69 women
with a mean age of 31.2 years (SD ¼ 10.76) and 37 men
with a mean age of 35.03 years (SD ¼ 14.8). 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 1 ¼ less happy to
7 ¼ more 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 1 ¼ not at all to
7 ¼ a 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) ¼ 198.48, 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) ¼ 0.31, p ¼ 0.82) and anxiety
(F(3, 102) ¼ 1.40, p ¼ 0.25).
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) ¼ 7.87, p50.01) and a significant inter-
action (F(3, 102) ¼ 2.87, p ¼ 0.04).
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) ¼ 2.59, p ¼ 0.11), the neutral projec-
tion group (F(1, 102) ¼ 0.58, p ¼ 0.45), and the control
group (F(1, 102) ¼ 0.18, p ¼ 0.67) 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) ¼ 3.13,
p ¼ 0.08) and no significant interaction either
(F(3, 102) ¼ 1.24, p ¼ 0.30). 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) ¼ 5.64, p50.02) but no significant
changes in the positive group (F(1, 102) ¼ 0.11, p ¼
0.75), the negative group (F(1, 102) ¼ 0.14, p ¼ 0.71), or
the control group (F(1, 102) ¼ 2.90, p ¼ 0.09).
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 N of 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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... The success of BITs depends on users' active involvement in the predefined activities , and it has been shown that the motivation to commit to the activities tends to quickly attenuate when interventions are selfadministered (Christensen et al., 2009). This is also illustrated by the high dropout rates of participants in the studies on the interventions for positive emotion regulation (e.g., Quoidbach et al., 2009). This paper focuses on designing for emotion-regulating activities that can be integrated into daily lives, addressing the challenges mentioned above. ...
... PMTT implies a conscious act of pre-experiencing future positive events involving the self and located in specific time and space, e.g., adopting strategic long-term goals, avoiding impulsive future behaviors, having a positive image of self (Suddendorf & Corballis, 2007). Several studies in psychology showed the positive effects of daily practice of PMTT in boosting and prolonging positive emotions (see Quoidbach et al., 2009, for an overview of its mechanism and effects). It was assumed that engaging in PMTT could help users ponder the purchase intention and future experiences, helping them effectively manage their positive emotions, as illustrated in Figure 2. ...
... We had participants fill out the following three questions on a 7-point Likert scale to index their PMTT engagement. The questions were formulated based on Quoidbach et al. (2009). ...
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This paper investigates how positive emotions can be effectively regulated through the design of interactions and how design-mediated positive emotions could contribute to well-being. With a proposition that the pathway to effective positive emotion regulation is a deliberate engagement in the activities that contribute to positive experiences, this paper explores how design can inspire and enable emotion-regulating activities. To illustrate how interactions can be systematically designed to support positive emotion regulation, the paper introduces the development of Purpal, a self-administered interactive device that stimulates Positive Mental Time Traveling (PMTT) in the context of consumption. PMTT is an emotion regulation strategy in which a user vividly remembers or anticipates positive events. The paper reports an in-lab experimental study that assessed the effectiveness and usefulness of Purpal in (1) engaging users in PMTT, (2) facilitating positive emotional experiences, (3) motivating them to use it in their daily lives, and (4) increasing their well-being. The results showed that Purpal enables users to immerse themselves in PMTT by serving as a source of self-reflection on their purchase intentions and future experiential values. Interacting with Purpal proved effective in fostering positive emotional experiences and well-being. Moreover, its potential for long-term use was well accepted.
... Impact on prospection, symptoms, and positive outlook. Other studies that have explicitly trained positive prospection have shown that writing about and simulating one's "best possible self" in the future increases optimism (Meevissen, Peters, & Alberts, 2011;Malouff & Shutte, 2016) and that writing about and imagining ordinary positive future events increases happiness (Quoidbach, Wood, & Hansenne, 2009). Boland, Riggs, and Anderson (2018) also showed that simulating positive future events in response to cue words can increase the perceived likelihood of positive events and decrease the perceived likelihood of negative events in college students with no, moderate, and high dysphoria. ...
... These findings complement and extend prior intervention studies that explicitly trained positive prospection using methods other than CBM-I. For example, previous studies in which participants were asked to simulate positive future events or positive versions of themselves included manipulation checks to confirm participants were engaging with the training correctly, but did not include measures to see if these interventions affected prospection with an independent measure of the target (which was the Expectancy bias task in our case; Quoidbach et al., 2009;Meevissen et al., 2011;Malouff & Shutte, 2016). Prior studies' manipulation checks often also asked participants to explicitly report the valence of their projections, likely creating demand effects for reports of those valenced projections. ...
... For instance, a series of studies on positive imagery CBM-I found that this intervention decreases depression symptoms in depressed community adults (Blackwell & Holmes, 2010;Lang et al., 2011;Torkan et al., 2014); however, when delivered online it was not superior to a 50/50 control condition that asked participants to simulate using verbal processing rather than mental imagery . Further, previous studies that have explicitly targeted positive prospection with writing about positive future events in various ways have either not assessed or not found effects on depression and anxiety symptoms (e.g., Boland et al., 2018;Quoidbach et al., 2009), and studies of other approaches that have shown improvements in these symptoms in addition to optimism have lacked active control groups or required in-person intervention (Malouff & Shutte, 2016). ...
Prospection, the mental simulation of future events, has been theoretically linked to physical and mental health. Prior studies have found that prospection is malleable; however, no research to our knowledge has tested whether a scalable intervention explicitly targeting the simulation of positive future outcomes can lead to more generalized positive prospection, and enhance positive outlook and reduce distress. The current study tested a novel, web-based cognitive bias modification for interpretation (CBM-I) program designed to shift prospective bias towards more positive (as opposed to negative) representations of future outcomes among 172 participants selected for having a relatively negative baseline expectancy bias. Results showed that following CBM-I, participants in active training conditions exhibited more positive expectations about the future, and increased self-efficacy and growth mindset. Also, optimism increased and depression and anxiety symptoms decreased following active training, but this also occurred for the control condition. Analyses did not suggest that changes in positive expectations mediated changes in positive outlook outcomes. Results suggest that an online prospection intervention can lead to more positive expectations about future events and improve positive outlook, though open questions remain about what accounts for the training effects.
... Savoring has been defined in the positive psychology literature as the process of attending to, prolonging, and enhancing the positive emotions attached to everyday experiences (Bryant & Veroff, 2007). Savoring positive memories has been shown to be an effective intervention at improving intrapersonal factors such as positive affect, life satisfaction, happiness (Bryant, 2003;Fordyce, 1983;Jose et al., 2012;Quoidbach et al., 2009;Smith & Bryant, 2016) as well as reducing negative affect and depression (Hurley & Kwon, 2012;McMakin et al., 2011). Savoring is something that occurs naturally for most individuals. ...
... While the association between savoring and positive affect is well established empirically in the positive psychology literature (e.g., Bryant & Veroff, 2007;Gentzler et al., 2013;Quoidbach et al., 2009), the association between savoring and optimism has received less attention. In his effort to establish convergent validity for the Savoring Beliefs Inventory, Bryant (2003) found trait savoring to be significantly positively correlated with dispositional optimism, with a large effect size. ...
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Barriers to care can contribute to a substantial treatment gap in the receipt of mental health services. This gap calls for the development of brief cost effective interventions for individuals suffering from relatively common complaints such as relationship distress. Savoring, which invites individuals to prolong the positive aspect of their experiences, is a promising candidate for development as a single sessionintervention (SSI) targeting romantic relationships. Savoring-based interventions have demonstrated efficacy at producing positive intra- and interpersonal outcomes (e.g., enhanced mood, optimism, and relationship closeness). This investigation examined the effectiveness of savoring-based SSI on a young adult population (n = 150) in committed romantic relationships. Participants were randomized into savoring and control conditions. Outcomes were measured before and after the intervention. The savoring-based SSI was better than the mindfulness control at improving some intra- and interpersonal outcomes including positive affect, and relationship distress. The results also supported a double mediation model with positive affect and optimism mediating the association between savoring and relationship distress. Savoring SSI is an efficacious intervention for reducing relationship distress and improving positive affect in partnered individuals. The intervention’s mechanism of change for inter-personal outcomes is likely its improvement of intrapersonal outcomes.
... Reminiscing about specific instances of prior FL success and the development of one's proficiency over time implicates several dimensions of EMPATHICS, on the grounds that reminiscing, as a savoring technique (Bryant & Veroff, 2007), is empowered to induce positive emotion, make awareness of language strengths more obvious to learners, and promote positive self-concepts. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that savoring techniques, including reminiscing, increase psychological well-being and dampen negative emotions (Bryant et al., 2005;Quoidbach, Wood, & Hansenne, 2009;Hurley & Kwon, 2012;Smith & Bryant, 2019). However, to date, the effects of reminiscing on FL anxiety reduction have not been tested. ...
... During the experimental period, only the experimental group students performed reminiscing tasks at any time when they felt feasible. The following instructions written in Chinese were formulated in reference to Quoidbach et al. (2009) and Smith and Bryant (2019): ...
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This paper reports on a study that took a positive psychology approach to foreign language anxiety reduction. More specifically, it investigated whether reminiscing about language achievements could effectively diminish the learners’ foreign language classroom anxiety. It also explored the patterns nested in the reminiscing process. To this end, 88 first language Chinese university students of English were randomly assigned into experimental (n = 43) and control groups (n = 45), who filled out a short-form anxiety scale before and after a 30-day intervention. The experimental group students were also requested to record what they had reminisced about as well as their emotional experiences during each lab session. The results showed that the dimensional and overall levels of anxiety decreased significantly over time in the experimental group but remained stable in the control group. In addition, textual analysis showed that the experimental group students recalled their progress in particularly speaking, listening, writing, reading, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, as well as non-language proficiency progress such as increased cross-cultural knowledge and testing ability. This reminiscing was linked to more frequent positive emotions than negative emotions. The findings and their implications for foreign language anxiety research and foreign language teaching and learning were discussed.
... The direction of change for anticipated and anticipatory pleasure was unexpected, and contrary to previous findings on affective responses to future events (Boland et al., 2018;Hallford et al., 2020b;Holmes et al., 2008Holmes et al., , 2009Quoidbach et al., 2009). This may be due to the guided future thinking focusing on particular details of the future event (e.g., room details, object details) rather than positive feelings. ...
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Mental simulations of positive future events increase their detail/vividness and plausibility, with effects on cognitive-affective processes such as anticipated and anticipatory pleasure. More recently, spatial details have been distinguished as important in increasing detail and elaborating mental scene construction. Building on this research, this study (N = 54; M age = 26.9) compared simulations of positive, self-relevant future events spatial details (i.e. people, objects, sequences of actions) with simulations focused on content details. Cross-sectionally at baseline, spatial details uniquely predicted phenomenological characteristics of future events, including anticipatory pleasure. The guided simulations increased detail and vividness, mental imagery, and pre-experiencing in both conditions. The content simulation condition did not increase content details relative to the spatial simulation condition, however, the inverse was true. Relatedly, overall detail and vividness were higher in the spatial condition, as was perceived control. The findings are discussed in relation to future thinking and mental health.
... Clinicians aiming to improve mental well-being and personal recovery in BD could use the RPA to determine levels of positive emotion regulation in their patients and try to specifically enhance positive rumination in patients scoring low in these strategies. Exercises from positive psychology, including the best-possible-self exercise (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006) or savoring strategies such as capitalizing and mental time travel (Quoidbach et al., 2009) might represent promising interventions to enhance the experience of positive emotions and foster positive rumination (Quoidbach et al., 2010). For researchers, the RPA could be a valuable addition for intervention studies to assess the effect of psychological interventions in improving responses to positive affect. ...
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The overall goal of this dissertation is to contribute to the integration of positive psychology and personal recovery into the treatment of bipolar disorder (BD). First, an overview of the research field of positive psychology interventions for serious mental illness (SMI) and of economic studies for BD is provided. This aims to summarize the current state of the art of positive psychology interventions for SMI and cost-effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions for BD. Second, two measurement instruments, the Questionnaire about the Process of Recovery (QPR) and the Responses to Positive Affect questionnaire (RPA), are psychometrically validated. Although these constructs constitute relevant outcomes for BD, the two measurement instruments were not translated into Dutch before and/or have not been validated in people with BD. Third, this thesis aims to widen our knowledge of what contributes to personal recovery in BD, by exploring factors that are associated with personal recovery in people with BD. Fourth, a novel positive psychology group treatment is developed aimed at improving personal recovery and mental well-being in euthymic BD patients. The effectiveness of this treatment is evaluated in a pragmatic randomized controlled trial (RCT). We could show in a full RCT, that the positive psychology group treatment developed and evaluated in this thesis represents an effective treatment to enhance mental well-being and personal recovery in euthymic patients with BD. This intervention may therefore represent a valuable addition for TAU for BD, since it complements current treatment with an intervention that contributes to live a joyful, meaningful and engaged life, also in the presence of a severe mental illness. Furthermore, we found that a Dutch translation of the QPR represents a reliable and valid instrument to measure personal recovery in BD. The QPR is now available to be used in the Netherlands. We could also show that the RPA is a psychometrically sound instrument to assess positive emotion regulation in BD. The RPA can be used to assess positive emotion regulation strategies in BD, which may represent important facilitators or barriers for recovery. Furthermore, we found that positive rumination, anxiety symptoms and social participation are independently associated with personal recovery in BD and might therefore represent valuable treatment targets when aiming to improve personal recovery. Possible future directions for practice and research include the implementation of this intervention in the current treatment landscape, the integration of idiographic research and data science approaches in mental health research and the development of personalized treatments to advance the care we provide for patients with mental disorders.
... Episodic Positive Future inking (EPFT), Functional Imagery Training (FIT), and "Best Possible Self" interventions all train clients to retrieve a mental image of possible positive future activities. ese positive imagery-based interventions have been shown to decrease negative affect and raise positive affect [23][24][25][26]. ese interventions also reduce delay discounting [27][28][29][30][31], food consumption [32][33][34][35][36][37][38], and tobacco and alcohol demand [27,30,[39][40][41]. ...
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Introduction: Imagery-based stress management therapies are effective at reducing alcohol use. To explore the therapeutic mechanism, the current study tested whether brief functional imagery training linked to personal negative affect drinking triggers would attenuate sensitivity to noise stress-induced alcohol seeking behaviour in a laboratory model. Methods: Participants were UK-based hazardous student drinkers (N = 61, 80.3% women, aged 18-25) who reported drinking to cope with negative affect. Participants in the active intervention group (n = 31) were briefly trained to respond to personal negative drinking triggers by retrieving an adaptive strategy to mitigate negative affect, whereas participants in the control group (n = 30) received risk information about binge drinking at university. The relative value of alcohol was then measured by preference to view alcohol versus food pictures in two-alternative choice trials, before (baseline) and during noise stress induction. Results: There was a significant two-way interaction (p < .04) where the control group increased their alcohol picture choice from baseline to the noise stress test (p < .001), whereas the active intervention group did not (p=.33), and the control group chose alcohol more frequently than the active group in the stress test (p=.03), but not at baseline (p=.16). Conclusions: These findings indicate that imagery-based mood management can protect against the increase in the relative value of alcohol motivated by acute stress in hazardous negative affect drinkers, suggesting this mechanism could underpin the therapeutic effect of mood management on drinking outcomes.
... This can be understood given that PTs' lack of actual Fig. 6 The effects of interactions between self-related goals and enjoyment on responsibility for teaching transmitted through teacher identity. Note: For ease of interpretation, z-scores were used to report the effects of interactions on responsibility for teaching teaching experiences may lead them to envision their future goals, thoughts, and/or behaviors more optimistically and idealistically, yet less realistically (Quoidbach et al., 2009), The results also showed that the relationship between enjoyment and task-related goals was slightly stronger than the relationships between enjoyment, self, and other-related goals. This result can be expected because, in contrast to negative emotions such as anger (Wang et al., 2017), positive emotions such as enjoyment are more compatible with prevalent norms of the teaching profession (e.g. ...
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This study examined the relationships among pre-service teachers’ (PTs) achievement goal orientations, emotions about teaching, teacher identity, and the sense of personal responsibility, with the intention of exploring whether the effects of possible interactions between achievement goal orientations and emotions about teaching on the sense of personal responsibility were significantly transmitted through teacher identity. A total of 845 PTs from the faculty of education of a large university located in the Western Black Sea region of Turkey participated in the study. An exploratory-correlational research design was used to examine the relationships among the research variables in an inductive manner. Partial correlation and path analyses were conducted to analyze the data. The results showed that achievement goal orientations, emotions about teaching, teacher identity, and the sense of personal responsibility were significantly related to each other. The results also showed that the effects of interaction between self-related goals and enjoyment on the four aspects of personal responsibility through teacher identity were positive and significant, whereas the effects of interaction between self-related goals and anxiety on the four aspects of personal responsibility through teacher identity were significant, yet negative. The results of the present study suggest that PTs’ emotions about teaching, along with their teacher identity, play crucial roles in their willingness to adopt personal responsibility for the diverse and challenging aspects of the teaching profession.
The relationships between the temporal focus of mind-wandering (i.e., past-oriented and future-oriented mind-wandering) and well-being are important issues for adolescents, which may have significant implications on their well-being and self-identity development. However, few studies tested the temporal focus of mind-wandering and its emotional consequences in adolescents. In the present study, we conducted two studies using self-reported questionnaires from large sample sets to examine the relationships between the temporal focus of mind-wandering and hedonic (pleasure attainment) and eudaimonic (meaning pursuing) well-being among Chinese adolescents. Study 1 preliminarily tested the relationships between the temporal focus of mind-wandering and hedonic well-being among adolescents ( n = 1273) suggesting that both past-oriented mind-wandering (PMW) and future-oriented mind-wandering (FMW) were positively correlated with hedonic well-being. Study 2 used a new sample ( n = 986) and included another aspect of well-being (i.e., eudaimonic well-being), showing that PMW and FMW were both positively correlated with hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Moreover, self-reflection mediated the relationships between FMW and hedonic/eudaimonic well-being, whereas self-reflection did not act as a mediator in the relationships between PMW and well-being. The present findings indicated that both PMW and FMW are beneficial for Chinese adolescents’ well-being, and emphasized the mediating role of self-reflection in the relationships between FMW and well-being.
The effectiveness of positive psychology interventions in the treatment of stress-related difficulties have not been well established. To estimate the effectiveness of positive psychology interventions on the reduction of stress-related symptoms, a systematic review using PubMed, Scopus, Wiley, Psychinfo, Cochrane and Sage databases with no limitation of date of publication was conducted. We identified additional studies by searching positive psychology reviews and academic books. Only studies trying positive interventions that included measures of anxiety, stress, or PTSD symptoms were reviewed. We extracted data using predefined data fields and study quality was assessed with the NIH study quality assessment tools. Twenty-nine records were included in this study: twenty-three controlled trials and six pre-post studies. Every study showed significant improvement in at least one dimension. Several studies reported improvements in well-being as well. This review shows promising results of positive psychology interventions as a treatment for stress-related difficulties. However, important methodological biases and strong heterogeneity among the studies highlight the need for replication and better validation of positive psychology interventions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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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.