Functions of Utopia: How Utopian Thinking Motivates Societal Engagement

Julian W. Fernando, Nicolas Burden, Adam Ferguson, Lean O'BRIEN, Madeline Judge, Yoshihisa Kashima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Images of ideal societies, utopias, are all around us; yet, little is known of how utopian visions affect ordinary people’s engagement with their societies. As goals for society, utopias may elicit processes of collective self-regulation, in which citizens are critical of, or take action to change, the societies they live in. In three studies, we investigated the psychological function of utopian thinking. In Study 1, measured utopianism was correlated with the activation of three utopian functions: change, critique, and compensation. In Study 2, primed utopian thinking consistently enhanced change and criticism intentions. Study 3 also provided evidence that mental contrasting—first imagining a utopian vision and then mentally contrasting the current society to this vision—underlies the facilitative effect of utopian thinking on societal engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-792
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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