Oettingen, G., Marquardt, M. K.,& Gollwitzer, P. M. (2012). Mental contrasting turns positive feedback on creative potential into successful performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 990-996.
In two studies employing a creativity test (i.e., solving insight problems), we hypothesized and observed that mental contrasting of a desired future with present reality (Oettingen, Pak, & Schnetter, 2001) transforms positive feedback into strong performance. Participants received positive or moderate bogus feedback on their creative potential and then engaged either in mental contrasting, indulging in the desired future, dwelling on present reality, or irrelevant contrasting with respect to taking a creativity test. Mental contrasting participants who received positive feedback performed better than those who received moderate feedback. They also performed better than indulging, dwelling, and irrelevant contrasting participants, regardless of the feedback received. By manipulating expectations of success through bogus feedback, the present research adjusts for confounding variables and validates previousfindings showing that mental contrasting produces expectancy-dependent goal commitments and performance. Implications for designing interventions to enhance people's creativity are discussed.