Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Roger Buehler

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Anne Wilson

Advisor Role

Committee Member

Third Advisor

Christian Jordan

Advisor Role

Committee Member


Planning for a future goal in reverse chronological order (i.e., backward planning) can result in increased task motivation for relatively specific, short-term goals, such as academic assignments (Park et al., 2017). Although sometimes backward planning is advocated for shorter-term, concrete event planning (e.g., planning a project timeline), it is also promoted for longer-term, identity-based, “visioning” exercises in which people imagine a desired future-self more generally, then backward plan the path to attaining it. The purpose of the present research was to empirically test this type of applied goal-setting program that promotes the use of backward planning when thinking about one’s future vision (i.e., one’s ideal future self). As such, the present research examined the effect of different types of planning on people's motivation to achieve their future vision and the subjective temporal distance of this future vision. Undergraduate students first described a short-term or long-term future vision for themselves, and then generated a plan for their future vision in a forward or backward direction. They were then asked to rate their overall motivation (Study 1) and motivation throughout the planning exercise (Studies 2 and 3). In all studies, participants rated the subjective closeness of their future vision. Across three studies, there is some evidence that backward planning influenced overall motivation for short-term, but not for long-term future visions. Backward planning did not influence the subjective closeness of these future visions. Additional measures suggested that effects of backward planning on motivation were mediated by the sequential contingency of people’s plans, in the short-term (Study 3), such that motivation was heightened to the extent that participants developed contingent plans. Overall, the findings were relatively inconsistent, suggesting that although backward planning can sometimes enhance motivation, companies and practitioners should be cautious about touting such visioning exercises.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season