Future-Directed Thought

Humans spend a substantial amount of time anticipating and predicting their futures. Will I do well on the exam? Will I get cancer? Will taking Tylenol or Aspirin work best for my headache? In this area, the InSPHIRe lab’s team has focused on topics related to optimism, risk perception, and expectations. Below are some recent examples of research questions that our lab has investigated:

How does making a treatment choice (e.g., about an active or inactive medication)affect expectations for the effectiveness of that treatment on a person’s symptoms and, subsequently, how their symptoms are actually experienced?

How do people think about risk and what is the best way for a researcher to psychologically capture this?

When another person has a positive (or negative) experience with a product, treatment, or other stimulus, does this alter the target person’s expectations and actual experience with that product or treatment?

How does predicting an outcome (e.g., picking Candidate A to win the election) affect downstream cognitive processing and subsequent evaluations of their prediction (e.g., confidence)?

Although being optimistic about the future is often associated with active goal pursuit and positive outcomes, sometimes it is linked with inactivity and negative outcomes.

What are the conditions responsible for these different effects and what prompts optimism to change from situation to situation?

Do people hold both conscious and nonconscious optimistic evaluations—and if so, how might differences in the conscious accessibility of expectancies influence to goal pursuit and health behavior?

In what situations it is advantageous to set your future expectations low (i.e., to approach a situation pessimistically)?

For a list of relevant citations, click here.