Thoughts about a successful future encourage action in the face of challenge

Mesmin Destin*, Vida M. Manzo, Sarah S.M. Townsend

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


College environments can put lower socioeconomic status (SES) female students at particular risk of withdrawing during challenging academic situations. However, thinking about reaching a successful future identity may encourage these students to take action rather than withdraw. In a laboratory experiment, we tested the hypothesis that imagining a successful future identity would help lower SES female students to actively and successfully confront challenging tasks (i.e., a mock student–faculty interaction and difficult academic test). As predicted, when future identities were cued rather than past identities, lower SES female students demonstrated greater action readiness. Specifically, they showed more expansive body posture during the mock interaction and more attempts to complete the academic test, which led to better performance. The motivation to take action among higher SES and male students, who are at lower risk of vulnerability in college environments, was not influenced by future identities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-333
Number of pages13
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Action readiness
  • Future identity
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Student–faculty interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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