Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The false hope syndrome: unrealistic expectations of self-change


People appear to behave paradoxically, by persisting in repeated self-change attempts despite previous failures. It is argued, though, that self-change attempts provide some initial rewards even when unsuccessful. Feelings of control and optimism often accompany the early stages of self-modification efforts. In addition, unrealistic expectations concerning the ease, speed, likely degree of change, and presumed benefits of changing may overwhelm the knowledge of one's prior failures. It is thus important to learn to distinguish between potentially feasible and impossible self-change goals in order to avoid overconfidence and false hopes leading to eventual failure and distress.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to J Polivy.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Polivy, J. The false hope syndrome: unrealistic expectations of self-change. Int J Obes 25 (Suppl 1), S80–S84 (2001).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • weight loss
  • expectations
  • false hope

This article is cited by


Quick links