Predictive Validity of the Pragmatic Prospection Scale
Historically, psychologists have focused on how people think about the past or present. However, recent research suggests that how people think about the future is at least as important for their functional outcomes. Pragmatic prospection (PP) is an adaptive future-thinking construct that has four major components: imagining desired future outcomes, setting sensible goals, making plans, and flexible executing plans. Given that PP facilitates the successful pursuit and attainment of one’s goals, PP (as measured by the Pragmatic Prospection Scale, or PPS) may be associated with students’ achievement and wellness outcomes.
To test our hypothesis, we recruited 140 Penn undergraduates who completed the PPS during the months of November to February. In April, we followed up with the same students, asking them questions about their achievement and wellness behaviors. In particular, students took a self-report measure that our lab created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, called the Behavioral Reactions to Coronavirus Disruption Scale (BRCD). The BRCD assessed Penn students’ prospection-related behaviors during the university’s extended Spring Break and transition to remote learning. For example, one item asked students, “During the extended Spring Break, to what extent did you apply for summer internships or job opportunities?”
We found that PPS score was indeed a robust predictor of students’ achievement and wellness behaviors. Higher scores were associated with less frequent procrastination, better academic preparation during the university’s extended Spring Break, and greater flourishing––even during a time of heightened uncertainty and stress. Intriguingly, PPS score was not correlated with grade point average, likely because grades are affected by many other variables such as course load and rigor. Nonetheless, our results suggest that pragmatic prospection is a psychologically adaptive trait and cognitive protective factor among college students. Our next steps will involve developing interventions that seek to enhance people’s pragmatic prospection abilities, with the ultimate goal of improving their functional outcomes.