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Salient selves in uncertain futures


We examined possible selves during three distinct periods of uncertainty. Cancer survivors (Study 1a) and survivors’ romantic partners (Study 1b) rated the salience of possible selves in which the cancer did (negative possible self; NPS) and did not (positive possible self; PPS) return. Study 2 mapped PPS and NPS salience throughout the four-month wait for bar exam results. Study 3 experimentally primed possible selves among participants awaiting medical test results. PPS salience correlated positively, and NPS negatively, with indicators of health and well-being, and inducing focus on one’s NPS led to greater negative emotion and worry compared to a PPS induction, but not less positive emotion. These results illustrate the well-being implications of possible selves during periods of uncertainty.

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