In describing a recent study, Alter said: “One group fantasized that the week would go as well as possible, whereas the other group conjured a more neutral version of the week. One week later, when the students returned to the lab, the positive fantasizers felt that they had accomplished less over the previous week.” And, in another study, “Those who harbored positive fantasies put in fewer job applications, received fewer job offers, and ultimately earned lower salaries.” But why? According to Heather Barry Kappes, a management professor at the London School of Economics and former student of Alter's, “imagining a positive outcome conveys the sense that you’re approaching your goals, which takes the edge off the need to achieve.”
Fascinating stuff. But do we need to give up all our positive fantasies? Not just yet, says Alter: “There’s nothing wrong with getting lost in fantasy, as long as you aren’t ultimately hoping to indulge in the real thing.”
In his talks, Alter offers thoughts on how leaders, policymakers, and smarter organizations can create more cognitively healthy environments—and healthier human beings. To book Adam Alter as a keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.