Collective futures: How projections about the future of society are related to actions and attitudes supporting social change.
We identified the active ingredients in people’s visions of society’s future (“collective futures”) that could drive political behavior in the present. In eight studies (N = 595), people imagined society in 2050 where climate change was mitigated (Study 1), abortion laws relaxed (Study 2), marijuana legalized (Study 3), or the power of different religious groups had increased (Studies 4-8). Participants rated how this future society would differ from today in terms of societal-level dysfunction and development (e.g., crime, inequality, education, technology), people’s character (warmth, competence, morality), and their values (e.g., conservation, self-transcendence). These measures were related to present-day attitudes/intentions that would promote/prevent this future (e.g., act on climate change, vote for a Muslim politician). A projection about benevolence in society (i.e., warmth/morality of people’s character) was the only dimension consistently and uniquely associated with present-day attitudes and intentions across contexts. Implications for social change theories, political communication, and policy design are discussed.