ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (5): 846-856.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2017.00846

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The double-edged effect and mechanism of episodic future thinking on goal attainment

WANG Tong; YANG Qing; HUANG Xiting   

  1. (Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China)
  • Received:2016-07-06 Online:2017-05-15 Published:2017-05-15
  • Contact: HUANG Xiting, E-mail:


Episodic future thinking (EFT) is the psychological process of projecting oneself into thinking and experiencing future self-related episodes in advance. EFT affects goal attainment in a double-edged way: process simulation and the generation of negative thoughts or images would facilitate goal attainment, while experiencing positive thoughts or images about a desired future would have adverse effects. Motivation level and clarity of implementation intention may be crucial in determining whether the effect of EFT on goal attainment would be beneficial or not. Therefore, by promoting motivation and clarity of implementation intention, related interventions could be developed to turn the deleterious effect of EFT into a beneficial one. Future studies should explore the cognitive and neural mechanisms of effects of different types of EFT on goal attainment, and should discuss how factors such as goal features and personality moderate the effect of EFT on goal attainment.

Key words: episodic future thinking, goal attainment, beneficial, deleterious, motivation, implementation intentions, interventions