Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Keith Markman

Keith Markman

My research interests, characterized broadly, are in the areas of motivated social cognition and social judgment and decision-making. Areas of specific interest break down into the following three categories:

(1) Counterfactual Thinking, Regret, and Mental Simulation

Mental simulation involves the generation of imagined alternatives to reality. My research program in this area has led to the recent development of the Reflection and Evaluation Model (REM) of comparative thinking (Markman & McMullen, 2003), which makes predictions regarding when assimilation and contrast effects in counterfactual, social, and temporal comparisons are likely to occur, and specifies the affective and motivational consequences of making such comparisons.

At the heart of the model is the assertion that two psychologically distinct modes of mental simulation operate during comparative thinking: Reflection, an experiential (as if) mode of thinking characterized by vividly simulating that information about a comparison standard is true of or part of the self, and Evaluation, an evaluative mode of thinking characterized by the use of information about a standard as a reference point against which to evaluate one’s present standing. Reflection occurs when information about a standard is included in one’s self-construal, and evaluation occurs when such information is excluded. The result of reflection is that standard-consistent cognitions implicating the self become highly accessible, thereby yielding affective assimilation, whereas the result of evaluation is that comparison information is used as a standard against which one’s present standing is evaluated, thereby yielding affective contrast. The resulting affect leads to either an increase or decrease in behavioral persistence as a function of the type of task with which one is engaged, and a combination of comparison-derived causal inferences and regulatory focus strategies direct one toward adopting specific future action plans.

(2) Psychological Momentum

There is a common perception among individuals that a psychological force called momentum exists that can powerfully influence performance. In athletic contexts, the belief in psychological momentum (PM) is so pervasive that one can hardly read about or view a sporting event without being exposed to references to how momentum-shifting plays influenced the outcome of a game. Importantly, however, the PM concept extends beyond athletics. Individuals believe that they can experience momentum while they are designing a computer program, writing a paper, or cleaning an apartment, and political campaigns and celebrity careers are often described as gaining or losing momentum. Moreover, stock market analysts often advise their clients to invest in momentum stocks, and political and social issues are often described as experiencing fluctuations in momentum. Notably this broader conceptualization of PM subsumes earlier work on the “hot-hand” (e.g., Gilovich, Vallone, & Tversky, 1985) that focuses more narrowly on runs and streaks that occur during performance.

Psychological Momentum Theory (PMT; Markman & Guenther, 2007), attempts to describe individuals’ experience and perception of PM. Newtonian physics represents the equation describing momentum as mass (m) X velocity (v) = momentum (p), and PMT maps psychological analogues onto the mass and velocity variables. According to the theory, a precipitating event provides a target (e.g., an attitude object, person, group of persons, etc.) with velocity. Velocity is a vector quantity, and thus is fully described by direction as well as magnitude. In PMT, the direction of the velocity vector can be positive (i.e., toward a goal) or negative (i.e., away from a goal). Mass is determined by the strength of contextual variables that connote value, immediacy, and importance, and combines with velocity to imbue a target with momentum. PM reflects the expected displacement of a target imbued with momentum. Thus, for positive momentum expected displacement is successful goal attainment, whereas for negative momentum expected displacement is unsuccessful goal attainment.

Rather than directly address whether PM actually does affect performance, we have chosen to examine what people think PM is, and how naïve theories about PM influence expected performance outcomes. Study 1 (Markman & Guenther, 2007) established that individuals share intuitions about the types of events that precipitate PM, and Study 2 found that defeating a rival increases momentum perceptions. Study 3 then provided evidence for the lay belief that as more PM accumulates during a prior task, more residual momentum is left to carry over to a subsequent task, and Study 4 found that an individual whose PM is interrupted is expected to have greater difficulty completing a task than is an individual whose steady progress is interrupted. As the theory continues to develop, future research will examine momentum perceptions in the domain of political attitudes and beliefs.

(3) Creativity, Mind-Set Activation, and the Debiasing of Social Judgments

A third line of research explores the effects of mind-set activation on creative and analytical thinking processes, as well as the debiasing effects of considering multiple alternatives and perspectives. The results of several studies suggest that considering multiple alternative outcomes for events, not just opposite outcomes, are effective for debiasing judgments, and that the consideration of alternatives in one domain may have debiasing effects on judgments made in a completely unrelated domain.

Markman, Lindberg, Kray, and Galinsky (2007) hypothesized that additive counterfactual thinking mind-sets (i.e., those activated by adding new antecedent elements to reconstruct reality) promote an expansive processing style that broadens conceptual attention and facilitates performance on creative generation tasks, whereas subtractive counterfactual thinking mind-sets (i.e., those activated by removing antecedent elements to reconstruct reality) promote a relational processing style that enhances tendencies to consider relationships and associations and facilitates performance on analytical problem solving tasks. A re-analysis of a published data set (Kray, Galinsky, & Wong, 2006) suggested that the counterfactual mind-set primes previously used by these researchers tend to evoke subtractive counterfactuals. Studies 1 and 2 then demonstrated that subtractive counterfactual mind-sets enhance performance on analytical problem solving tasks, whereas Studies 3 and 4 found that additive counterfactual mind-sets enhance performance on creative generation tasks. In all, this work provided initial empirical evidence for a link between counterfactual thinking and creative cognition and, more generally, clarified ambiguities in the literature regarding the nature of the relationships between counterfactual mind-sets, creativity, and problem solving.

The distinction between the expansive processing style elicited by additive counterfactual mind-sets and the relational style elicited by subtractive counterfactual mind-sets suggests a two-stage approach toward improving group decision-making. During the initial stages of a group project, an additive counterfactual mind-set might be instantiated in order to facilitate creative brainstorming and the generation of multiple novel ideas, whereas a subtractive counterfactual mind-set might be instantiated during the latter stages of a group project when the focus shifts to coordinating group efforts toward finding and implementing the best possible solution. More generally, the strategic manipulation of various types of counterfactual mind-sets can potentially heighten the likelihood of innovation, which involves both the generation of novel ideas and their successful implementation.

Primary Interests:

  • Causal Attribution
  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Motivation, Goal Setting
  • Self and Identity
  • Social Cognition

Note from the Network: The holder of this profile has certified having all necessary rights, licenses, and authorization to post the files listed below. Visitors are welcome to copy or use any files for noncommercial or journalistic purposes provided they credit the profile holder and cite this page as the source.

Image Gallery


Journal Articles:

  • Beike, D. R., Markman, K. D., & Karadogan, F. (2009). What we regret most are lost opportunities: A theory of regret intensity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 385-397.
  • Briki, W., Den Hartigh, R. J., Markman, K. D., Micallef, J.-P., & Gernigon, C. (2013). How psychological momentum changes in athletes during a sport competition. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 389-396.
  • Dyczewski, E.A., & Markman, K.D. (2012). General attainability beliefs moderate the motivational effects of counterfactual thinking. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 1217-1220.
  • Hirt, E. R., Kardes, F., & Markman, K. D. (2004). Activating a mental simulation mind-set through generation of alternatives: Implications for debiasing in related and unrelated domains. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 374-383.
  • Hirt, E. R., & Markman, K. D. (1995). Multiple explanation: A consider-an-alternative strategy for debiasing judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1069-1086.
  • Kray, L.J., Galinsky, A. & Markman, K. (2009). Counterfactual structure and learning from experience in negotiations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 979-982.
  • Markman, K. D., Gavanski, I., Sherman, S. J., & McMullen. M. N. (1995). The impact of perceived control on the imagination of better and worse possible worlds. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 578-585.
  • Markman, K. D., Gavanski, I., Sherman, S. J., & McMullen, M. N. (1993). The mental simulation of better and worse possible worlds. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 29, 87-109.
  • Markman, K. D., & Guenther, C. L. (2007). Psychological momentum: Intuitive physics and naïve beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 800-812.
  • Markman, K. D., & Hirt, E. R. (2002). Social prediction and the "allegiance bias." Social Cognition, 20, 58-86.
  • Markman, K. D., Lindberg, M. J., Kray, L. J., & Galinsky, A. D. (2007). Implications of counterfactual structure for creativity and analytical problem solving. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 312-324.
  • Markman, K. D., & McMullen, M. N. (2003). A reflection and evaluation model of comparative thinking. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7, 244-267.
  • Markman, K. D., McMullen, M. N., & Elizaga, R. A. (2008). Counterfactual thinking, persistence, and performance: A test of the Reflection and Evaluation Model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 421-428.
  • Markman, K. D., Mizoguchi, N., & McMullen, M. N. (2008). “It would have been worse under Saddam:” Implications of counterfactual thinking for beliefs regarding the ethical treatment of prisoners of war. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 650-654.
  • McMullen, M. N., & Markman, K. D. (2000). Downward counterfactuals and motivation: The "wake-up call" and the "Pangloss" effect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 575-584.

Other Publications:

  • Markman, K.D., & Beike, D.R. (2012). Regret, consistency, and choice: An opportunity X mitigation framework. In B. Gawronski & F. Strack (Eds.), Cognitive consistency: A fundamental principle in social cognition (pp. 305-325). New York: Guilford Press
  • Markman, K.D., & Dyczewski, E.A. (2013). Mental simulation: Looking back in order to look ahead. In D. Carlston (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of social cognition (pp. 402-416). New York: Oxford University Press.

Courses Taught:

  • Experimental Research Methods
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Mental Simulation
  • Social Cognition
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Psychology Research Methods
  • Stereotyping and Prejudice

Keith Markman
Department of Psychology
200 Porter Hall
Ohio University
Athens, Ohio 45701
United States

  • Phone: (740) 593-1083

Send a message to Keith Markman

Note: You will be emailed a copy of your message.

Psychology Headlines

From Around the World

News Feed (35,797 subscribers)