Woop is a scientific strategy
that people can use to find and
fulfill their wishes and change their habits…

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It is also known as Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) in the scientific literature. It was created as a result of over 20 years of scientific research and has proven to be effective across ages and life domains.

Health domain

  • Woop doubled regular physical exercise over a time period of four months and increased fruitand vegetable intake by 30% over the period of two years.
    — Stadler, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, 2009, 2010
  • Woop helped chronic pain patients to become more physically active during rehabilitation three months thereafter.
    — Christiansen, Oettingen, Dahme, & Klinger, 2010
  • Woop helped patients suffering from Type II Diabetes to improve their self-care.
    — Adriaanse, De Ridder, & Voorneman, 2013

Academic domain

  • Woop increased attendance and course grades of school children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
    — Duckworth, Kirby, A. Gollwitzer, & Oettingen, 2013
  • Woop improved homework of children at risk for ADHD.
    — Gawrilow, Morgenroth, Schultz, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, 2013
  • Woop increased high school students’ effort to prepare for standardized tests by 60%.
    — Duckworth, Grant, Loew, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, 2011

Interpersonal domain

  • Woop reduced insecurity-based behaviors (e.g., looking through the partner’s phone log) and increased commitment in romantic relationships.
    — Houssais, Oettingen, & Mayer, 2013
  • Woop lead to more integrative solutions and fairer behavior in bargaining games.
    — Kirk, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, 2013
  • Woop increased tolerance and social responsibility towards members of prejudiced groups.
    — Oettingen, Mayer, Thorpe, Janetzke, & Lorenz, 2005

is WOOP important?

“Think positive!” quotes are nowadays found everywhere, but contrary to popular believe, positive thinking about the future leads to poor performance and success. Research over the past 15 years finds that dreaming about a desired future leads to low investment and little success, regardless of life domains, such as health, work and interpersonal relationships. In order to benefit from positive thinking about the future people need to incorporate in that positive thinking a clear sense of reality.

Mental Contrasting (the Wish, Outcome, and Obstacle part of WOOP) is a visualization technique that incorporates this sense of reality: It helps people to gain insight into their wishes and to clearly identify the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing these wishes. WOOP is an evidence-based self-regulatory strategy, that people can use effectively on their own to change their behavior across everyday life (e.g., health, school, work, play, relationships) and across the life cycle (e.g., from childhood to old age).

How does WOOP work?

WOOP, which stands for Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan, is a conscious exercise leading to strategic automaticity: The Wish, Outcome, and Obstacle part of WOOP build nonconscious associations between future and reality and between the obstacles and the actions to overcome the obstacles. These associations provide energy and foster the mastery of set-backs. The Plan-part of WOOP further helps to overcome difficult obstacles by strengthening the association between obstacles and actions even more.

coming soon! october 16, 2014
  • "Every day of our lives, our mind diverts into private thoughts — wishful dreams of our future, regrets and ruminations over what went wrong yesterday, nervous anticipation about tomorrow. Gabriele Oettingen's book is the single best guide to the power and consequence of these private thoughts. It will teach you nothing less than how to think better."
    — Po Bronson, coauthor of Nurtureshock and Top Dog
  • “This book is a wise delight. Some kinds of positive thinking are beneficial, other kinds are downright dangerous, and Gabriele Oettingen has spent her scientific career figuring out which are which. The fruits of her labor are deep, plentiful, and yours for the taking.”
    — Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness
  • "How do you get from dreaming to doing? This exciting and important book shows you how to turn your dreams into reality. You'll be surprised at how thoroughly it overturns conventional wisdom."
    — Carol S. Dweck, Lewis & Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology, Stanford University, and author of Mindset
  • “Gabriele Oettingen presents a well-written thought-provoking evidence-based self-help book. Hers is an intriguing approach to overcoming life challenges at all ages. It is a worthy read.”
    — James Joseph Heckman, Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
  • “I was once asked by educators to identify the single most effective intervention for improving self-control. Every scientist I spoke to referred me to the work summarized here—masterfully and with incomparable insight and warmth. Read this brilliant book and then go out and do what Gabriele Oettingen recommends. It will change the way you think about making your dreams come true.”
    — Angela Duckworth, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, and 2013 MacArthur Fellow
  • “Want to quit smoking, lose weight, get better grades, sustain healthier relationships, or negotiate effectively? Then this easy-to-read book, based on twenty-plus years of empirical research, is for you. Setting a goal, visualizing the obstacles, and then charting a path sounds so straightforward—but guess what? It works!”
    — Gary Latham, Secretary of State Professor of Organizational Effectiveness at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
  • “Gabriele Oettingen, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of motivation, presents a forceful, scientifically based challenge to the “power of positive thinking.” This eminently practical book is a much needed and welcome corrective.”
    — Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Temple University, and author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence
  • "Gabriele Oettingen approaches the subject of positive thinking with a scientist's passionate curiosity. She is open to anything she might find and truly seeks to discover what works—and what doesn't. What she found will surprise you, as it did me, and will make you eager to try her methods."
    — Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, writer, director (The Lives of Others; The Tourist), and winner of Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Rethinking Positive Thinking
Inside the New Science of Motivation

Preorder now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million

“The solution isn’t to do away with dreaming and positive thinking. Rather, it’s making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way.”

So often in our day-to-day lives we’re inundated with advice to “think positively.” From pop music to political speeches to commercials, the general message is the same: look on the bright side, be optimistic in the face of adversity, and focus on your dreams. And whether we’re trying to motivate ourselves to lose weight, snag a promotion at work, or run a marathon, we’re told time and time again that focusing on fulfilling our wishes will make them come true.

Gabriele Oettingen draws on more than twenty years of research in the science of human motivation to reveal why the conventional wisdom falls short. The obstacles that we think prevent us from realizing our deepest wishes can actually lead to their fulfillment. Starry- eyed dreaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and as it turns out, dreamers are not often doers.

While optimism can help us alleviate immediate suffering and persevere in challenging times, merely dreaming about the future actually makes people more frustrated and unhappy over the long term and less likely to achieve their goals. In fact, the pleasure we gain from positive fantasies allows us to fulfill our wishes virtually, sapping our energy to perform the hard work of meeting challenges and achieving goals in real life. Based on her groundbreaking research and large-scale scientific studies, Oettingen introduces a new way to visualize the future called “mental contrasting.” It combines focusing on our dreams with visualizing the obstacles that stand in our way. By experiencing our dreams in our minds and facing reality we can address our fears, make concrete plans, and gain energy to take action.

In Rethinking Positive Thinking, Oettingen applies mental contrasting to three key areas of personal change— becoming healthier, nurturing personal and professional relationships, and performing better at work. She introduces readers to the key phases of mental contrasting using a proven four-step process called WOOP—Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan—and offers advice and exercises on how to best apply this method to daily life. Through mental contrasting, people in Oettingen’s studies have become significantly more motivated to quit smoking, lose weight, get better grades, sustain fulfilling relationships, and negotiate more effectively in business situations. Whether you are unhappy and struggling with serious problems or you just want to improve, discover, and explore new opportunities, this book will deepen your ideas about human motivation and help you boldly chart a new path ahead.

Mobile App

The "WOOP to and through college" app

We created the WOOP to and through college app to support students on their way to and through college. See http://www.wooptoandthroughcollege.com/

The "WOOP business" app

We also created the WOOP business app. Download the app to your Phone.

WOOP app in App Store WOOP app on Google Play



About Gabriele Oettingen

Gabriele Oettingen is a Professor of Psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg. She is the author of more than a 100 articles and book chapters on thinking about the future and the control of cognition, emotion, and behavior. She received her Ph.D. from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Seewiesen, Germany.

Her major contribution to the field is research on the perils of positive thinking and on Mental Contrasting, a self-regulation technique that is effective for mastering one’s everyday life and long-term development. Gabriele Oettingen’s work is published in social and personality psychology, developmental and educational psychology, in health and clinical psychology, in organizational and consumer psychology, as well as in neuropsychological and medical journals. Her findings contribute to the burgeoning literature on life style change and businesses and institutions have increasingly become interested in the application of her research.

Her first trade book, RETHINKING POSITIVE THINKING: Inside the New Science of Motivation will be published by Current, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in October 2014.





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