Vakgroep Psychologie, Gezondheid & Technologie

How to measure anticipatory processes using Letters from the Future?


Type of assignment: BA

Internal or external: Internal                                                                                                       

How many students possible: 2 students

Own data collection: Yes 

Type of research: qualitative empirical   

EC: 15        



Anticipatory processes such as planning, orienting, goal-setting, and imagining what will, could or should happen are part and parcel of human existence. These processes enabled our ancestors to prepare for winter, are the basis of scientific inventions, and help us steer our daily lives. Think for example about planning what to wear to a party, orienting what career you want to pursue, or dreaming about the love of your life. Previous research has focused on various aspects of anticipatory processes in isolation. For example subjective time horizon (does an upcoming exam feel experientially close or distant?) has been linked to motivation; the specificity of the future image and of the trajectory to the future has been linked to depression and risk behavior. However, we do not know how multiple aspects of anticipatory processes are related to each other. A more holistic approach to the study of anticipation is provided by a novel versatile method, the Letter from the Future instrument. This is a written exercise where people imagine travelling to the future and writing back from that future a letter to their present self. The aim of this assignment is to contribute to the validation of this instrument through qualitative pre-testing.


In this thesis assignment, you will recruit a small respondent group of your own choice (this may be students, but also other populations which you think are of interest). You will ask them to write a Letter from the Future, and consequently interview about how they wrote the letter using the Three-Step Test-Interview (TSTI) method (Hak, van der Veer, & Jansen, 2004) or a cognitive interview (depending on the chosen respondent group). The TSTI is a method for identifying response problems in self-administered questionnaires by observing actual instances of interaction between the instrument and respondents. It consists of three steps: Observation of response while completing the scale, follow-up probing aimed at remedying gaps in observational data and debriefing aimed at eliciting experiences and opinions (Hak, van der Veer, & Jansen, 2008).




Anneke Sools

Peter ten Klooster



Hak, T., van der Veer, K., & Jansen, H. (2008). The Three-Step Test-Interview (TSTI): An observation  -based method for pretesting self-completion questionnaires. Survey Research Methods, 2(3),              143–150.

Sools, A. M., Tromp, T., & Mooren, J. H. (2015). Mapping letters from the future: Exploring narrative processes of imagining the future. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(3).

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