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The Motivating Power of Visionary Images: Effects on Motivation, Affect, and Behavior

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Journal of Personality

Published online on


Objective Visionary images are identity‐relevant, picture‐like mental representations of a desirable and attainable future appearing regularly in a person's stream of thought. Prior research indicates that both mental and real images provide access to implicit motives. We therefore proposed that visionary images motivate people by arousing their implicit motives and tested this hypothesis in two experimental studies. Method We used guided visualizations to administer motive‐domain‐specific visionary images (Study 1: achievement and neutral, Mage = 24.4, 51 participants, 34 women; Study 2: affiliation and power, Mage = 24.01, 51 participants, 28 women) to arouse the respective implicit motive. Motivation was measured via residual changes in affective (i.e., changes in affective arousal), behavioral (i.e., performance on a concentration task, behavioral choices in a prisoner's dilemma), and mental (i.e., motive imagery in the Picture Story Exercise) indicators of motivation. Results The results largely confirmed our hypothesis. Visionary images increased motivation in the targeted domain. Some effects were moderated by participants' implicit motives. Conclusions The findings underscore the role of implicit motives in understanding the motivational effectiveness of visionary images.