ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (1): 38-54.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00038

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of episodic foresight on intertemporal decision-making

WANG Panpan,HE Jiamei()   

  1. Collaborative Innovation Center of Healthy Personality Assessment and Cultivation of Children and Adolescents in Liaoning Province, Dalian 116029, China
  • Received:2018-09-18 Published:2020-01-25 Online:2019-11-21
  • Contact: Jiamei HE


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.

Key words: episodic foresight, intertemporal decision-making, future time intervals, perceived waiting time

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