Possible Selves: From Content to Process

Authored by: Daphna Oyserman , Leah James

Handbook of Imagination and Mental Simulation

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  September  2012

Print ISBN: 9781841698878
eBook ISBN: 9780203809846
Adobe ISBN: 9781136678103


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Possible selves are visions of the self in a future state; like guideposts, possible selves can orient current choices and behavior. Envisioning ones' future “healthy self,” the self who can take the stairs without becoming breathless, or ones' future “unhealthy, smoking self,” the self who can no longer do so, can make current choices—refraining from buying a new package of cigarettes, or going to the gym—feel meaningful rather than simply painful. Yet, people do not always act in ways that enhance their chances of attaining their positive and avoiding their negative possible selves. They push the button and wait for the elevator instead of taking the stairs and do not pass on the second dessert or third roll. Why not?

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