I Don’t Sweat my Future: Future-Selves, Personality, and Skin Conductance


Objective: Future-selves (both positive and negative) have been shown to be related to self-esteem, efficacy, meaning, continuity, and social acceptance. Control beliefs (beliefs about whether actions can bring about desired outcomes) as well as locus of control (internal or external) may impact how individuals see their future and their perception of what can be done to create or change the future. Machiavellian personality traits are associated with external locus of control, while conscientiousness is associated with internal locus of control.

Methods: We measured galvanic skin response (GSR), a widely used measure of physiological arousal, in 84 study participants while they described possible future selves, one positive and one negative, and completed questionnaires about personality traits.

Results: Higher conscientiousness was associated with lower skin conductance when describing positive future selves, whereas higher scores on the Machiavellian Personality Assessment questionnaire were correlated with lower skin conductance when describing negative future selves.

Conclusion: Conscientious individuals are confident in their ability to control their future, thus explaining their lower arousal when describing positive future selves. Machiavellian individuals view the world more negatively but believe they can handle negative situations, thus explaining their lower arousal when describing negative future selves.



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conscientiousness, future-selves, Machiavellian, skin conductance

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Journal Title

Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology