Stop Being So Positive

Gabriele Oettingen, Harvard Business Review, Oct 27, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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Although it addresses an important point, the title is very misleading. The study cited in the article (Future thought and behaviour change) is actually pretty interesting, but it divides future thoughts (ie., thoughts about the future) into 'fantasies' and 'beliefs'. The former are forms of wishful thinking, not based in rehearsal or past performance. The latter are based on experience and practice. And as the author says, "empirical research reliably finds that high expectations of success and and optimistic beliefs indeed foster motivation and successful performance." There are good grounds for expecting specific forms of 'positive thinking' to work. For example, "teaching mental contrasting of feasible desired future outcomes would result in better academic performance than teaching students to only think positively about the respective future."

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