Identity Motives Underlying Desired and Feared Possible Future Selves


  • This research was supported by an external collaboration grant to the first author from the Catholic University of Milan (n. 4937). Study 1 was conducted while the fourth author was a visiting research fellow at the University of Sussex. Study 2 is adapted from part of the second author's doctoral thesis. We thank Constantine Sedikides, Fabio Sani, Tim Kasser, Sara Hodges, Chi-Yue Chiu, and several anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier drafts.

should be addressed to Vivian L. Vignoles, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QH, UK. Internet:


ABSTRACT Desired and feared possible future selves are important motivators of behavior and provide a temporal context for self-evaluation. Yet little research has examined why people desire some possible selves and fear others. In two studies, we tested the reflection of identity motives for self-esteem, efficacy, meaning, continuity, belonging, and distinctiveness in people's desired and feared possible future selves and in their possible future identity structures. As predicted, participants desired especially those possible futures in which motives for self-esteem, efficacy, meaning, and continuity would be satisfied, and they feared especially those in which the same four motives and, marginally, the motive for distinctiveness would be frustrated. Analyses supported an indirect path from belonging via self-esteem to desire and fear. Desired and feared possible future selves reflect potential satisfaction and frustration of these identity motives.