With an Eye Toward the Future: The Impact of Counterfactual Thinking on Affect, Attitudes, and Behavior
Faith Gleicher University of California, Santa Barbara
David S. Boninger University of California, Los Angeles
Alan Strathman University of Missouri
David Armor John Hetts University of California, Los Angeles
Mina Ahn University of California, Santa Barbara
You'll conquer the present suspiciously fast, if you smell of the future --and stink of the past.
-- Piet Hein
That counterfactuals "stink of the past" is perhaps the most well documented finding of prior research on counterfactual thinking. Thoughts about what might have been persist after an event and influence individuals' affective responses and judgments (see Roese & Olson, chapter 1). Findings from other research, including our own, however, indicate that counterfactuals can also "smell of the future" in their influence on affective responses, attitudes, and behavior. In other words, individuals' concerns and thoughts about their future prospects might shape the nature and implications of their counterfactual thoughts.