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Looking back in order to predict the future: Relative resource assessments and their relationship to future expectations

Journal article
Authors Gró Einarsdóttir
André Hansla
Lars-Olof Johansson
Published in Nordic Psychology
Volume 71
Issue 1
Pages 17-38
ISSN 1901-2276
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 17-38
Language en
Keywords future expectations, optimism, reference points, relative resource assessments, temporal relative deprivation, worry
Subject categories Psychology


© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group In this research, we investigated how relative resource assessments relate to future expectations. In previous research, resources are typically studied separately, and contextual influences and reference-point dependencies are often ignored. We addressed this in an online survey in which Icelanders (N = 611) assessed their economic, temporal, social, and emotional resources using four reference points (wants, others, past, future). We used exploratory factor analysis to reduce the four resources into three reliable factors: economic, temporal, and socio-emotional resources. Using hierarchical regression we found that assessments of socio-emotional and economic resources were related to future expectations, even after controlling for more objective resource markers, such as income and education. This relationship was strongest when past resources were used as the reference point for assessing current resources. We interpret these findings as suggesting that temporal comparisons to the past become more salient during times of instability, as Icelanders have recently gone through much economic and political turmoil. A psychological challenge for individuals recovering from economic collapse is to abstain from comparing current with past resource levels, as it elicits a loss experience. Overcoming a feeling that “it was better before” seems vital in re-establishing optimistic future expectations.

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