Take Action

Home | Faculty & Research Overview | Research

Research Details

Prefactual thoughts: Mental simulations about what might happen, Review of General Psychology


Thought about the future can take many forms, from goal planning to intentions and from fantasies to magical thinking. The term prefactual has guided some past research, yet its potential impact has been hampered by inconsistency in its definition. Here we define prefactual thought as a conditional (if-then) proposition about an action-outcome linkage that may (or may not) take place in the future, such as “If I take action X, it will lead to outcome Y.” A prefactual embraces a causal belief that an action (if taken) will result in the outcome with a high degree of certainty. A form of mental simulation, prefactuals often derive from counterfactuals (which focus on the past) and feed into intentions (which center on the future). This article provides an overview of extant findings, draws connections to goal pursuit and affect regulation, and clarifies the value of the prefactual construct for conceptualizations of prospection.




Kai Epstude, Anika Scholl, Neal Roese

Date Published



Epstude, Kai, Anika Scholl, and Neal Roese. 2016. Prefactual thoughts: Mental simulations about what might happen. Review of General Psychology.(1): 48-56.


Explore leading research and ideas

Find articles, podcast episodes, and videos that spark ideas in lifelong learners, and inspire those looking to advance in their careers.
learn more


Review Courses & Schedules

Access information about specific courses and their schedules by viewing the interactive course scheduler tool.


Discover the path to your goals

Whether you choose our Full-Time, Part-Time or Executive MBA program, you’ll enjoy the same unparalleled education, exceptional faculty and distinctive culture.
learn more