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The relationship between depressive symptoms and positive emotional anticipation of goal achievement

Anderson, Rachel J.; Clayton McClure, J. Helgi; Boland, Jennifer; Howe, David; Riggs, Kevin J.; Dewhurst, Stephen A.


J. Helgi Clayton McClure

Jennifer Boland

David Howe


Depression is associated with difficulties in goal pursuit which could be related to deficits in emotional anticipation regarding goal success. Therefore, the reported study investigated emotional anticipation for personal goals and whether this differs as a function of depressive symptoms. After listing approach and avoidance goals, 263 participants made predictions about these goals (e.g. likelihood of achievement and controllability) and rated the vividness and perspective with which they envisaged goal achievement. They also provided ratings of either anticipated (predicted emotions that would accompany goal success) or anticipatory (in-the-moment emotions when imagining goal success) positive emotions. Higher levels of depressive symptomatology were associated with pessimistic predictions about goal achievement, coupled with reduced vividness and greater adoption of observer perspective when envisaging achievement. Furthermore, those experiencing higher levels of depressive symptoms evidenced biases in both anticipated and anticipatory positive emotions associated with goal success. They believed that goal achievement would bring them lower levels of positive emotion and also reported less in-the-moment happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure when thinking about achieving their goals. Irrespective of depressive symptom level, anticipated emotions were generally stronger than anticipatory emotions. These findings have implications both for research on future-oriented emotions (anticipated and anticipatory) and for the development of therapeutic techniques to aid depression.


Anderson, R. J., Clayton McClure, J. H., Boland, J., Howe, D., Riggs, K. J., & Dewhurst, S. A. (2023). The relationship between depressive symptoms and positive emotional anticipation of goal achievement. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 14(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 3, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 21, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Mar 22, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 23, 2023
Journal Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
Print ISSN 2043-8087
Electronic ISSN 2043-8087
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 1
Keywords Anticipated emotion; Anticipatory emotion; Motivation; Personal goals; Depression; Dysphoria
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Published article (590 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© The Author(s) 2023.
Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without
further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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