Friends with my future self: Longitudinal vividness intervention reduces delinquency

Jean Louis Van Gelder*, Eva C. Luciano, Marleen Weulen Kranenbarg, Hal E. Hershfield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


In a field experiment, we use a novel method to test whether instilling a greater sense of vividness of the future self motivates people to act in a more future-oriented way and reduces their delinquent involvement. We manipulate vividness of the future self by having participants, a sample of high-school youth (N = 133), "befriend" an avatar representing their future self on a social network website. For 7 days, they reply to short messages from their future self designed to trigger thinking about that distant self. Using repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA), we find that participants who had been linked to their future self report less delinquent involvement, whereas controls did not. Furthermore, the results of a nonparametric bootstrapping procedure show that this effect is mediated by changes in vividness of the future self, such that increases in vividness lead to lower self-reported delinquency. We conclude that vividness of the future self holds promise not only as a cognitive explanation for the failure to make informed cost-benefit trade-offs but also for interventions aiming to reduce delinquency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-179
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Delinquency
  • Future self
  • Multiple selves
  • Self-defeating behavior
  • Social network websites


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