The flexibility of individual decision-making behavior is at least partly the result of people’s ability to travel mentally in time and entertain potential future scenarios. It has been proved that episodic foresight has great effect on intertemporal decision-making. However, the reasons for such effect are controversial. The self-relevant information and emotional characteristics of an imagined event could change the perceived waiting time, which is an important factor affecting the preference of intertemporal decision-making ( Zauberman, Kim, Malkoc, & Bettman, 2009). We propose the hypothesis that the perceived waiting time may mediate the effect of episodic foresight on intertemporal decision-making. Based on the delay discounting task paradigm, we designed two experiments to explore the mediating role of perceived waiting time between episodic foresight and intertemporal decision-making, which from the perspective of the self-relevant information of the imagined event and the emotional characteristics of the imagined event that occurs in the future time intervals successively. We tested our hypothesis in two laboratory experiments with approximately 93 participants each. Between-subjects study design with pretest and post-test was employed. In the experiments, participants were randomly assigned to different groups and they were asked to complete the subjective perception of the waiting-time task in the pretest and post-test and the episodic-foresight task in the post-test. Participants were also asked to imagine that the given event on the screen occurs on the 15th day from today as much detail as possible, including the time, place, and characters of the event, and write down the contents of the first imagined event. Participants were also required to imagine the event that appear on screen before making a choice every time. Moreover, the current emotional state and the current level of urgent need for money of the participants were recorded and analyzed in the pretest and post-test. Results of two experiments showed that the perceived waiting time mediated the effect of episodic foresight on intertemporal decision-making. Imagining self-relevant future events and future events with positive or neutral emotional valence revealed that participants perceived delayed waiting time as short and were more inclined to choose delayed rewards. However, imagining future events with negative emotional valence showed that participants perceived delayed waiting time as long and were more inclined to choose immediate rewards. The current emotional state, the current level of urgent need for money, and other additional environmental variables had no effect on the experimental results. In conclusion, this study reveals the psychological mechanism that episodic foresight mediates participants’ intertemporal decision-making through the perceived waiting time, and two experiments demonstrate its robustness. Our research provides a new perspective for explaining why episodic foresight affects intertemporal decision-making and, for the first time, focuses on the process of delayed waiting time in delayed rewards, which has considerable theoretical value.
Bai X. J., Yin S. S., Yang H. B., Lv Y., Hu W., & Luo Y. J . ( 2011). The influence of visual working memory contents on top-down attentional control: An ERP study. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 43( 10), 1103-1113.
Buhusi C. V., & Meck W. H . ( 2006). Interval timing with gaps and distracters: Evaluation of the ambiguity, switch, and time-sharing hypotheses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 32( 3), 329-338.
Bulley A., & Gullo M. J . ( 2017). The influence of episodic foresight on delay discounting and demand for alcohol. Addictive Behaviors, 66, 1-6.
Bulley A., Henry J., & Suddendorf T . ( 2016). Prospection and the present moment: The role of episodic foresight in intertemporal choices between immediate and delayed rewards. Review of General Psychology, 20( 1), 29-47.
Caruso E. M., Gilbert D. T., & Wilson T. D . ( 2008). A wrinkle in time: Asymmetric valuation of past and future events. Psychological Science, 19( 8), 796-801.
Chen Y. G., Zhang Z. J., Huang X. T., Guo X. Y., Yuan H., & Zhang T . ( 2007). Attentional modulation of time perception: An ERP study. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 39( 6), 1002-1011.
Cheng Y. Y., Shein P. P., & Chiou W. B . ( 2012). Escaping the impulse to immediate gratification: The prospect concept promotes a future-oriented mindset, prompting an inclination towards delayed gratification. British Journal of Psychology, 103( 1), 129-141.
Chiou W. B., & Wu W. H . ( 2017). Episodic future thinking involving the nonsmoking self can induce lower discounting and cigarette consumption. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78( 1), 106-112.
Conway A. R. A., Cowan N., & Bunting M. F . ( 2001). The cocktail party phenomenon revisited: The importance of working memory capacity. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8( 2), 331-335.
Cooper N., Kable J. W., Kim B. K., & Zauberman G . ( 2013). Brain activity in valuation regions while thinking about the future predicts individual discount rates. Journal of Neuroscience, 33( 32), 13150-13156.
Daniel T. O., Said M., Stanton C. M., & Epstein L. H . ( 2015). Episodic future thinking reduces delay discounting and energy intake in children. Eating Behaviors, 18, 20-24.
Daniel T. O., Stanton C. M., & Epstein L. H . ( 2013a). The future is now: Comparing the effect of episodic future thinking on impulsivity in lean and obese individuals. Appetite, 71( 4), 120-125.
Daniel T. O., Stanton C. M., & Epstein L. H . ( 2013b). The future is now: Reducing impulsivity and energy intake using episodic future thinking. Psychological Science, 24( 11), 2339-2342.
D’Argembeau A., Ortoleva C., Jumentier S., & van der Linden M . ( 2010). Component processes underlying future thinking. Memory and Cognition, 38( 6), 809-819.
D’Argembeau A., Renaud O., & van Linder M . ( 2011). Frequency, characteristics and functions of future-oriented thoughts in daily life. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25( 1), 96-103.
Dassen F. C. M., Houben K., Nederkoorn C., & Jansen A . ( 2016). Focus on the future: Episodic future thinking reduces discount rate and snacking. Appetite, 96, 327-332.
Droit-Volet S., Mermillod M., Cocenas-Silva R., & Gil S . ( 2010). The effect of expectancy of a threatening event on time perception in human adults. Emotion, 10( 6), 908-914.
Duan J. Y., Wu S. J., & Sun L. Y . ( 2017). Do the powerful discount the future less? The effects of power on temporal discounting. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1007.
Fredrickson B. L . ( 2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 359( 1449), 1367-1377.
Fredrickson B. L., & Cohn M. A . ( 2008). Positive emotions. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones & L. F. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (3rd ed., pp. 777-796). New York, US: Guilford Press.
Frederick S., Loewenstein G., & O'Donoghue T . ( 2002). Time discounting and time preference: A critical review. Journal of Economic Literature, 40( 2), 351-401.
Gasper K., & Clore G. L . ( 2002). Attending to the big picture: Mood and global versus local processing of visual information. Psychological Science, 13( 1), 34-40.
Green L., & Myerson J . ( 1996). Exponential versus hyperbolic discounting of delayed outcomes: Risk and waiting time. American Zoologist, 36( 4), 496-505.
Gregory W. L., Cialdini R. B., & Carpenter K. M . ( 1982). Self-relevant scenarios as mediators of likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it so? Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 43( 1), 89-99.
Grondin S . ( 2010). Timing and time perception: A review of recent behavioral and neuroscience findings and theoretical directions. Attention Perception & Psychophysics, 72( 3), 561-582.
Guan S. C., Cheng L., Fan Y., & Li X. C . ( 2015). Myopic decisions under negative emotions correlate with altered time perception. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 468.
He J. M., Huang X. T., Yin K. L., & Luo Y. M . ( 2010). The staged construction of temporal discounting. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 42( 4), 474-484.
Kable J. W., & Glimcher P. W . ( 2009). The neurobiology of decision: Consensus and controversy. Neuron, 63( 6), 733-745.
Kidd C., Palmeri H., & Aslin R. N . ( 2013). Rational snacking: Young children's decision-making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability. Cognition, 126( 1), 109-114.
Kim B. K., & Zauberman G . ( 2009). Perception of anticipatory time in temporal discounting. Journal of Neuroscience Psychology & Economics, 2( 2), 91-101.
Klein S. B . ( 2013). The complex act of projecting oneself into the futur e. WIREs Cognitive Science, 4( 1), 63-79.
Knäuper B., Roseman M., Johnson P. J., & Krantz L. H . ( 2009). Using mental imagery to enhance the effectiveness of implementation intentions. Current Psychology, 28( 3), 181-186.
Koka A . ( 2016). Effectiveness of a brief intervention using process-based mental simulations in promoting muscular strength in physical education. European Physical Education Review, 23( 4), 412-427
Levine B., Svoboda E., Hay J. F., Winocur G., & Moscovitch M . ( 2002). Aging and autobiographical memory: Dissociating episodic from semantic retrieval. Psychology & Aging, 17( 4), 677-689.
Li A. M., Zhao D., Xiong G. X., Tan F., Wang X. T., & Ling W. Q . ( 2014). Is waiting a kind of torture? Perceived waiting time and the resulting irrational decision Making. Advances in Psychological Science, 22( 11), 1679-1690.
Lin H., & Epstein L. H . ( 2014). Living in the moment: Effects of time perspective and emotional valence of episodic thinking on delay discounting. Behavioral Neuroscience, 128( 1), 12-19.
Liu L., Feng T. Y., Chen J., & Li H . ( 2013). The value of emotion: How does episodic prospection modulate delay discounting? Plos One, 8( 11), e81717.
Luo S., Ainslie G., & Monterosso J . ( 2014). The behavioral and neural effect of emotional primes on intertemporal decisions. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 9( 3), 283-291.
Lyubomirsky S., King L., & Diener E . ( 2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131( 6), 803-855.
Meck W. H., & Macdonald C. J . ( 2007). Amygdala inactivation reverses fear's ability to impair divided attention and make time stand still. Behavioral Neuroscience, 121( 4), 707-720.
O’Donnell S., Oluyomi Daniel T., & Epstein L. H . ( 2017). Does goal relevant episodic future thinking amplify the effect on delay discounting? Consciousness and Cognition, 51, 10-16.
Pekrun R., Goetz T., Daniels L. M., Stupnisky R. H., & Perry R. P . ( 2010). Boredom in achievement settings: Exploring control-value antecedents and performance outcomes of a neglected emotion. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102( 3), 531-549.
Peters J., & Büchel C . ( 2010). Episodic future thinking reduces reward delay discounting through an enhancement of prefrontal-mediotemporal interactions. Neuron, 66( 1), 138-148.
Preacher K. J., & Hayes A. F . ( 2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40( 3), 879-891.
Prelec D., & Loewenstein G . ( 1991). Decision making over time and under uncertainty: A common approach. Management Science, 37( 7), 770-786.
Pronin E., Olivola C. Y., & Kennedy K. A . ( 2008). Doing unto future selves as you would do unto others: Psychological distance and decision making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34( 2), 224-236.
Rasmussen A. S., & Berntsen D . ( 2013). The reality of the past versus the ideality of the future: Emotional valence and functional differences between past and future mental time travel. Memory & Cognition, 41( 2), 187-200.
Rayner Keith . ( 1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 124( 3), 372-422.
Rounds J. S., Beck J. G., & Grant D. M. M . ( 2007). Is the delay discounting paradigm useful in understanding social anxiety? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45( 4), 729-735.
Sasse L. K., Peters J., Büchel C., & Brassen S . ( 2015). Effects of prospective thinking on intertemporal choice: The role of familiarity. Human Brain Mapping, 36( 10), 4210-4221.
Sayette M. A., Loewenstein G., Kirchner T. R., & Travis T . ( 2005). Effects of smoking urge on temporal cognition. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 19( 1), 88-93.
Sherman S. J., Cialdini R. B., Schwartzman D. F., & Reynolds K. D . ( 1985). Imagining can heighten or lower the perceived likelihood of contracting a disease: The mediating effect of ease of imagery. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 11( 1), 118-127.
Smith-Spark J. H., Bartimus J., & Wilcock R . ( 2017). Mental time travel ability and the mental reinstatement of context for crime witnesses. Consciousness & Cognition, 48, 1-10.
Soto D., & Humphreys G. W . ( 2008). Stressing the mind: The effect of cognitive load and articulatory suppression on attentional guidance from working memory. Perception & Psychophysics, 70( 5), 924-934.
Soto D., & Humphreys G. W . ( 2009). Automatic selection of irrelevant object features through working memory: Evidence for top-down attentional capture. Experimental Psychology, 56( 3), 165-172.
Soto D., Humphreys G. W., & Heinke D . ( 2006). Working memory can guide pop-out search. Vision Research, 46( 6-7), 1010-1018.
 Stein J. S., Sze Y. Y., Athamneh L., Koffarnus M. N., Epstein L. H., & Bickel W. K . ( 2017). Think fast: Rapid assessment of the effects of episodic future thinking on delay discounting in overweight/obese participants. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 40( 5), 832-838.
Stein J. S., Wilson A. G., Koffarnus M. N., Daniel T. O., Epstein L. H., & Bickel W. K . ( 2016). Unstuck in time: Episodic future thinking reduces delay discounting and cigarette smoking. Psychopharmacology, 233( 21-22), 3771-3778.
Suddendorf T . ( 2010). Episodic memory versus episodic foresight: Similarities and differences. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Cognitive Science, 1( 1), 99-107.
Suddendorf T., & Busby J . ( 2005). Making decisions with the future in mind: Developmental and comparative identification of mental time travel. Learning & Motivation, 36( 2), 110-125.
Suddendorf T., & Moore C . ( 2011). Introduction to the special issue: The development of episodic foresight. Cognitive Development, 26( 4), 295-298.
Tse P. U., Intriligator J., Rivest J., & Cavanagh P . ( 2004). Attention and the subjective expansion of time. Perception & Psychophysics, 66( 7), 1171-1189.
Tulving E . ( 2002). Chronesthesia: Conscious awareness of subjective time. In D. T. Stuss & R. T. Knight (Eds.), Principles of frontal lobe function (pp. 311-325). New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Wang Q., Luo S., Monterosso J., Zhang J., Fang X., Dong Q., & Xue G . ( 2014). Distributed value representation in the medial prefrontal cortex during intertemporal choices. Journal of Neuroscience, 34( 22), 7522-7530.
Wiehler A., Petzschner F. H., Stephan K. E., & Peters J . ( 2017). Episodic tags enhance striatal valuation signals during temporal discounting in pathological gamblers. Eneuro, 4( 3), 1-11.
Wittmann M., & Paulus M. P . ( 2008). Decision making, impulsivity and time perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12( 1), 7-12.
Wolford G., & Morrison F . ( 1980). Processing of unattended visual information. Memory & Cognition, 8( 6), 521-527.
Xu X. X., Yu J., & Lei X . ( 2015). Imagining the future: Cognitive processes and brain networks. Advances in Psychological Science, 23( 3), 394-404.
Yates M. J., & Nicholls M. E. R . ( 2009). Somatosensory prior entry. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 71( 4), 847-859.
Yoshie M., & Haggard P . ( 2013). Negative emotional outcomes attenuate sense of agency over voluntary actions. Current Biology, 23( 20), 2028-2032.
Zauberman G., Kim B. K., Malkoc S. A., & Bettman J. R . ( 2009). Discounting time and time discounting: Subjective time perception and intertemporal preferences. Journal of Marketing Research, 46( 4), 543-556.
Zhang J. J., Chen X. Q., & Chen X . ( 2008). The effects of tasks’ differences in stimuli, processing and responses on attention distribution. Journal of Psychological Science, 31( 5), 1100-1103.