October 4, 2017

Quartery Meeting: Rethinking Positive Thinking


“Think positive!” quotes are found everywhere, but contrary to popular belief merely thinking positively about the future hurts effort and success. Research conducted over more than 20 years finds that dreaming about a desired future leads to low effort and little success. So, how can we avoid the perils of positive thinking? By juxtaposing our dreams with personal obstacles, we pursue desired futures that can be realized and let go from those that cannot. I will talk about this self-regulation strategy, mental contrasting, its non-conscious mechanisms, and how people can use it autonomously as a cost- and time-effective tool to fulfil their wishes and solve their concerns. Combining mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) has proven to be particularly effective in changing behavior. I will discuss various ways of how MCII or – Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan (WOOP) – can be used as an effective self-regulatory tool to improve one’s everyday-life and long-term well-being.


Gabriele Oettingen is a Professor of Psychology at New York University. She is the author of more than a 150 articles and book chapters on thinking about the future and the control of cognition, emotion, and behavior. She received her Ph.D. from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Seewiesen, Germany. Her major contribution to the field is research on the perils of positive thinking and on Mental Contrasting, a self-regulation technique that is effective for mastering one’s everyday life and long-term development. Gabriele Oettingen’s work is published in social and personality psychology, developmental and educational psychology, in health and clinical psychology, in organizational and consumer psychology, as well as in neuropsychological and medical journals. Her findings contribute to the burgeoning literature on behavior and life style change, and educational institutions have increasingly become interested in the application of her research.

Her first trade book, RETHINKING POSITIVE THINKING: Inside the New Science of Motivation has been published by Current, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in October 2014 (for more information, see www.woopmylife.org). Books will be available for purchase.

6:30-8:30 Buffet Dinner will be served

RSVP required

Directions to Vanderbilt Suite

From Outside

If you are walking outside, from East 44th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue (one block east of Madison Ave – you will see Grand Central Terminal). You will see La Fonda Del Sol on your right. Go in through the Met Life Building’s entrance that is located directly next to La Fonda and head up the escalators immediately in front of you. These will lead you directly to the Vanderbilt Suites.

From Grand Central Terminal

Lexington Avenue Line 4, 5, or 6 / Shuttle Train to 42nd Street/Grand Central

Exit subway – follow exit signs to Metro North or Grand Central Terminal. Once inside Grand Central Terminal, walk to the information booth in the center. Look - There are only one set of escalators. Take the escalators up one flight. Walk straight through the revolving doors, veering left and then go up the first escalator. Vanderbilt Suites will be on your left, directly in front of the elevators.

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