Anticipation: An Overview

Anticipation is a cognitive process that involves the ability to predict the future and to plan for it in advance. It is an essential part of executive functioning, which is the ability to plan and execute complex tasks. This article explores the various aspects of anticipation, including its definition, neurobiological foundations, and implications for behavior.


At its most basic level, anticipation is the ability to imagine or anticipate future events. It is a form of prospective cognition, or the ability to think about the future. Anticipation involves the use of information from the present and past to make predictions about the future. It is also closely related to planning and decision making, as it involves the ability to evaluate potential outcomes and to select the most desirable one.

Neurobiological Foundations

Anticipation is underpinned by several brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and basal ganglia. The prefrontal cortex is involved in the planning of future events, the hippocampus in the recall of past experiences, and the basal ganglia in the evaluation of potential outcomes. The interplay between these brain regions enables the anticipation of future events.

Behavioral Implications

Anticipation is essential for goal-directed behavior and the successful navigation of life’s tasks. It is especially important for adaptive behavior, such as the ability to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions. Anticipation is also closely linked to motivation and emotion, as it can be used to anticipate rewards and to regulate emotional responses.


In summary, anticipation is a cognitive process that involves the ability to predict future events and plan for them in advance. It is underpinned by several brain regions and has important implications for behavior, including the ability to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions and to regulate emotions.


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Spielberger, C. D., & Reheiser, E. C. (2005). Anticipatory emotions and related behaviors: A cognitive-motivational perspective. In C. D. Spielberger & E. C. Reheiser (Eds.), Emotion, Stress, and Health (pp. 99–120). American Psychological Association.

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