The effectiveness and equivalence of different versions of a brief online Best Possible Self (BPS) manipulation to temporary increase optimism and affect

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2023 Jun:79:101837. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2023.101837. Epub 2023 Jan 23.


Background and objectives: The Best Possible Self (BPS) has been found to be an effective manipulation to temporarily improve optimism and affect. The BPS has been used in different formats. In some versions, participants just write about their best possible future, while in others this is combined with imagery. An imagery only version has not been tested yet. The aim of the current study was to examine the effectiveness of three different versions of the BPS and their equivalence in improving optimism and affect.

Methods: In an online study format, participants (N = 141) were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (1) writing and imagery BPS; (2) writing BPS; (3) imagery BPS; and (4) a typical day (TD) control condition.

Results: Results showed that each BPS condition significantly improved optimism (i.e. increased positive future expectancies and decreased negative future expectancies) and affect (i.e. increased positive affect and decreased negative affect). Equivalence testing showed that all online BPS conditions were equivalent in increasing optimism and affect, thereby confirming that both the writing and imagery elements of the BPS can independently from each other increase optimism and positive affect in a healthy population.

Limitations: Only the immediate effects of the BPS formats on increasing optimism and affect were measured.

Conclusions: The BPS manipulation can be employed in different ways for potential future exploration, depending on the research question, design and context and/or E-mental health applications for the treatment of individuals suffering from psychological complaints.

Keywords: Best possible self; Imagery; Online intervention; Optimism; Positive affect; Writing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy* / methods
  • Mental Health
  • Optimism* / psychology