ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (6): 1086-1096.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01086

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How people imagine the future: The effect of episodic future thinking on individual's psychology and behavior

LU Leian, WANG Chunsheng, REN Jun()   

  1. Department of Psychology, College of Education and Human Development, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua 321004, China
  • Received:2020-07-09 Online:2021-06-15 Published:2021-04-25
  • Contact: REN Jun


Episodic Future Thinking (EFT), a mental simulation of likely future experience, is critical to human adaptation. Accordingly, EFT has been explored with different rigorous scientific approaches-cognitive, neuropsychological and neuroimaging. Benefits of these research outputs are understandably enormous. However, these findings need to be properly organized to be accessible in a digestible manner. Therefore, based on the results of behavioral and neuroimaging studies, this paper systematically discusses the concept. Specifically, the study summarizes research findings on brain and behavior as they relate to individual's past life experiences, the corresponding memories, and life goals. Further, the study highlights that EFT is not solely positive; and demarcates conditions where EFT is potentially detrimental to the individual as reported in the literature. Strong argument is put forward for deepening the depth and widening the breadth of research on EFT. Particularly, the paper recommends further work on EFT typology, EFT and maladaptive behaviors, and the mechanisms for corrective measures or interventions. These areas when examined may contribute to theoretical understanding of EFT whilst expanding its practical utility for human adaptation.

Key words: episodic future thinking, positive bias, delay discounting, social discounting

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