Four studies examined the relationship between counterfactual origins — thoughts about how the beginning of organizations, countries, and social connections might have turned out differently — and increased feelings of commitment to those institutions and connections. Study 1 found that counterfactually reflecting on the origins of one's country increases patriotism. Study 2 extended this finding to organizational commitment and examined the mediating role of poignancy. Study 3 found that counterfactual reflection boosts organizational commitment even beyond the effects of other commitment-enhancing appeals and that perceptions of fate mediate the positive effect of counterfactual origins on commitment. Finally, Study 4 temporally separated the counterfactual manipulation from a behavioral measure of commitment and found that counterfactual reflection predicted whether participants e-mailed social contacts 2 weeks later. The robust relationship between counterfactual origins and commitment was found across a wide range of companies and countries, with undergraduates and M.B.A. students, and for attitudes and behaviors.

H. Ersner-Hershfield, Adam Galinsky, L. Kray, and Brayden King
Journal Article
Publication Date
Psychological Science

Full Citation

Ersner-Hershfield, H., Adam Galinsky, L. Kray, and Brayden King
. “Company, country, connections: Counterfactual origins increase organizational commitment, patriotism, and social investment.”
Psychological Science
, (January 01, 2010):