Developmental and Experiential Factors in Making Wishes
Norman A. Milgram and Wolfgang W. Riedel, Child Development, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1969), pp. 763-771
Children in grades made up 3 wishes they hoped would come true. With increasing age, children wished for abstract or intangible human conditions rather than for concrete or tangible possessions; wished for things consistent with adult rather than child status; and made altruistic wishes, benefiting others rather than themselves.
“A projective technique commonly employed to investigate personality development in young children is to ask them to make up wishes that they hope will come true; these wishes are assumed to reflect the ungratified needs, the unexpressed impulses, and the unresolved fears of the children making the wishes. Analyses of…special adult groups from the vantage point of their particular life experiences, are absent from the research literature.”
Assumptions in wish-making:
1. A person will only wish for something of which he has some knowledge. As a bare minimum, he must possess a verbal label for the desired entity to communicate the wish to another person. 2. While a person need not possess extensive knowledge of the thing desired, he must necessarily recognize and value highly one or more of its properties.
3. No matter how valued the thing may be, it will not be wished for if it is readily available; it will simply be taken for granted under these circumstances.
The desired thing must be relatively high in the hierarchy of things valued by the person; otherwise, some other thing more valued will have been given priority in making wishes.
Wishes, Gender, Personality, and Well-Being
Laura A. King and Sheri J. Broyles, Southern Methodist University
Study participants made three wishes and completed measures of the five-factor model of personality, optimism, life
satisfaction, and depression. Common wishes were for achievement, affiliation, intimacy, and power as well as for happiness and money. Tests showed women were more likely to wish for improved appearance, happiness, and health; men were more likely to make power wishes and wishes for sex. Extraversion was related to making more interpersonal wishes and wishes for positive affect. Neuroticism was related to wishes for emotional stability. Agreeableness and Openness to Experience related to wishes reflective of these traits. Conscientiousness was related to low impulsivity. Depression was related to making highly idiosyncratic, specific wishes, suggesting the use of wishful thinking as a coping mechanism. In addition, happy participants were more likely to rate their wishes as likely to come true. Results indicate that the relatively commonplace process of wishing relates to traits, gender, and well-being.
“We make a wish over birthday candles, as we toss coins in a fountain, on shooting stars, and first stars. In some sense, these wishes reveal a latent optimism about the world, as if wishing for something might actually make it so…In fairy tales and in psychology, wishes have been portrayed as revealing important information about wish makers…More recently, wishes have been defined as aims that are unconstrained by the limitations of the real world…lacking the potency to become “wants”…Wishes have the potential to be less reality-bound than goals, although they may take the form of goals…wishes are mental statements…to express a more or less fantastic desire. These types of wishes represent samples of deliberate fantasy, rather than…wishes that might emerge in the stream of natural thought. Wish lists have been used previously in research and practice as measures of personal preference, bases for discussions, creativity enhancers, and as “ice breakers” in clinical settings. An invitation to “make a wish” is an invitation to engage in mundane fantasy.”
“Wishes are utterly unconstrained even by reality. Thus, wishes might be expected to be even more strongly related to aspects of the person than goals…There is no risk involved in making a wish, given the relatively low probability that a fantastical wish will “come true.”…wishes may express fleeting interests, colored by long-term concerns (e.g., “world peace”) but also potentially momentary situational factors (e.g., “to meet the woman sitting next to me”). Given the influence of caprice in wish making, the links between wishes and personality and well-being might be expected to be somewhat less than that typically found in goal research.”
“In any case, this study indicates that aspects of everyday fantasy have demonstrable relations to stable personality characteristics and to psychological well-being. To paraphrase Walt Disney, “When you wish upon a star” what you wish for depends on who you are.”
These two studies are probably the most exciting of the lot, because they are very closely related (in fact, they have practically covered half of my “research” for me!) to my intended topic. They deal with the particular aspect of making wishes, and how personal traits, characteristics, social- and experiential-development of individuals affect the contents of these wishes. The readings have helped me especially in the area of terminology – labeling types/categories of wishes, classifying different factors (gender, personality, well-being, experience) – which will help me to further my research in this area. The references provided in the studies also provide me with more material to look up. I think this is definitely an area that I want to look into deeper, as it corresponds closely to what I intended when I started on the topic of “wishes”. I have quite a few more papers/readings which I’ve found that cover the topics of motives and intentions with regards to wishes, so I’ll post up my thoughts when I’m done with them.