Tag Archives: future self

Clearly-Imagined Future Self Enables More Effective Goal Planning

Most people choose near-term payoffs over distant benefits, often leading to poor outcomes when the future arrives.

Hal Hersfield

Hal Hersfield

Many individuals have difficulty envisioning a personal future because a distant time horizon is more abstract than the tangible reality of an extended present.
This bias toward short-term rewards generally leads to inadequate planning for future eventualities, like health care and financial requirements.

However, making the intangible future more concrete alters this near-term preference.

Laura Carstensen

Laura Carstensen

Volunteers received a visual aid to clearly imagining a future self by viewing a current photo of themselves or a digitally-aged photo from the same present-day view in a study by NYU’s Hal Hershfield collaborating with Daniel Goldstein of London Business School, Stanford’s  William F. SharpeLaura CarstensenJeremy Bailenson, and Leo Yeykelis plus Jesse Fox of Ohio State University.

Jeremy Bailenson

Jeremy Bailenson

The team asked participants in each group to estimate the amount of their income they would save for retirement.
People who saw their aged photos said they would save substantially more money than those who saw the present-day image.

Leo Yeykelis

Leo Yeykelis

When participants interacted with realistic, immersive age-progressed renderings of themselves, they tended to defer present rewards for future monetary rewards.

Hershfield and collaborators argued that the aged photos are vivid, less-deniable glimpses of a personal future.
These images enabled people to more realistically imagine their distant future lives by enhancing their experience of “self-continuity” over time.

Jesse Fox

Jesse Fox

Financial planners, health care advisors, and life insurers have applied these findings by developing a commercial version of this future self-image, to enable people to develop more realistic savings and retirement strategies for a tangible future self.

Emily Pronin

Emily Pronin

Another team’s findings supported Hershfield’s suggestion that people view their future selves as “other” and alien rather than personally relevant and meaningful.

Christopher Olivola

Christopher Olivola

Princeton’s Emily Pronin, Christopher Olivola, now of University of Warwick and Kathleen Kennedy, now of Columbia, asked participants to estimate the amount of an unsavory liquid mixture they would be willing to drink immediately and in several months to advance scientific knowledge.
In addition, volunteers estimated the amount of this liquid that another participant should drink.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy

Most volunteers judged that they would drink more in the future and that others should drink about the same amount.
However, participants estimated that they would drink only about half as much if consumed immediately.

This suggests that judgments about the future self and unknown other people are similarly distant from the present self.

These time perception biases include:

  • Quasi-hyperbolic time discounting, which leads most people to make an inter-temporal choice for a smaller payoff in the present instead of a larger payoff in the future.
    They attributed this trend to discounting a less-imaginable future payoff for a more tangible, nearer-term benefit.
  • Affective forecasting errors, described in a previous blog post, leading to inaccurate predictions of future choices, preferences, emotional reactions, and behaviors due to:
    • Projection biasAssuming that a present state will occur at a future time in a different circumstance,
    • Impact bias Overestimating future emotional responses to adverse events, and underestimating adaptability and coping,
    • Narrow bracketing — Considering individual decisions and outcomes without reference to context or long-term additive effects with other decisions and circumstances.

-*How do you overcome biases to plan for future goals and needs?

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Change Future Time Perspective to Reduce Procrastination

Neil Lewis

Neil Lewis

Future events seemed more “proximal” or occurring sooner when volunteers considered in days rather than months or years.

This shift in perspective made the Future Self and the future event seem more tangible and connected to the Present Self, enabling participants to begin progress toward distant goals, according to University of Michigan’s Neil Lewis and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California.

Daphna Oyserman

Daphna Oyserman

Many people know the dilemma between purchasing expensive clothes now instead of putting the money into retirement savings or between enjoying dessert now when “swimsuit season” is just weeks away.
This pull between current rewards and costs vs future events and required efforts was labeled temporal discounting by Stanford’s Kacey Ballard and Brian Knutson.

Kacey Ballard

Kacey Ballard

People may not act when considering future events like retirement because they focus more on whether to take action in the present.
In contrast, people tend to concentrate how to act when faced with imminent situations requiring attention, according to temporal construal theory, described by NYU’s Yaacov Trope and Nira Liberman.

Yaacov Trope

Yaacov Trope

Further, people may not act when an anticipated Future Self seems incongruous or disconnected with the Present Self, found Williams College’s Kris Kirby with Nancy Petry of University of Vermont and Virginia Tech’s Warren Bickel.

Nancy Petry

Nancy Petry

When volunteers have begun preparing for the future, such as a work presentation, saving for a home, retirement, or children’s education, they saw metrics implying when a future event will occur.

More than 160 volunteers considered six scenarios — three with time metrics and three without.
For the time-metric situations, participants imagined that they were shopping, studying, or carrying out other tasks in preparation for future events — a birthday party, presentation, wedding, exam — and were asked to report how long it would be until those events occurred.

Warren Bickel

Warren Bickel

When participants considered time in the smaller of two possible units, the event seemed closer – an average of 29.7 days sooner when considered in days instead of months and an average of 8.7 months sooner when considered in months instead of years.

In other Lewis and Oyserman studies, more than 1100 participants in the U.S. indicated when they should start saving for a future scenario such as a child’s college education, measured either as 18 years or 6,570 days.

Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

People who realized that this event would arrive within days planned to start saving four times sooner than those who thought that educational expenditures were years away, even when controlling for income, age, and self-control.

In contrast, when participants hadn’t begun preparing for an expected future event, they considered metrics as implying when they should start preparing.

This difference in time perspective can affect whether people achieve future goals that require consistent, long-term investments of time, effort, and money.
In fact, Oyserman argues that changing time perspective is  “… a new way to think about reaching goals that does not require willpower and is not about having character or caring.

Brian Knutson

Brian Knutson

Since the majority of people do not save save sufficient financial resources for required future expenditures, changing time metrics to more granular measures can make both future goals and one’s Future Self more aligned with the Present Self.

-*How do you align Future Self with Present Self when working toward future goals?

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Perceived Personal Power Can Modify Time Perception, Perceived Stress

Alice Moon

Alice Moon

People’s subjective experience of time differ based on individual characteristics, which can influence feelings of control over time and coping with time demands.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

University of California Berkeley’s Alice Moon and Serena Chen evaluated more than 550 volunteers’ ratings of their perceived personal power and their perspectives on available time to accomplish goals.

Moon and Chen asked more than 100 participants to assume the role of a “manager” while sitting in a “high-power chair,” or the role of an “employee” while both groups rated their perceived personal resources of time and power.
Participants who played the more powerful role of “manager” reported that they had more time than “employee.”

Moon and Chen also primed more than 100 American adults to think of themselves in high-power or low-power positions, and asked them to rate statements about availability of time to achieve goals.

Even when participants did not actually have more available time, those who felt most powerful perceived greater control over their time, and greater time availability.
This is another example of the power of expectation exceeding the importance of an actual resource, competency, or experience.

Mario Weick

Mario Weick

These findings support other reports that managers experience less stress than subordinates in organizations, attributable to their “position power.”

Ana Guinote

Ana Guinote

People who feel powerful tend to hold a significantly optimistic bias when predicting time required to complete task, reported University of Kent’s Mario Weick and Ana Guinote of University College London.

They attributed this unrealistic optimism to
confident belief in personal self-efficacy accompanying subjective feelings of power in their evaluation of:

  • Actual power and time perception,
  • Induced feelings of power through priming,
  • Pre-existing personal self-perceptions.
Priyanka D. Joshi

Priyanka D. Joshi

This “planning fallacy” of underestimating task completion time often results from a narrow focus on the goal, coupled with the optimism bias that obscures potential obstacles and risks.

Nathanael Fast

Nathanael Fast

Likewise, people who feel powerful also tend to feel more confident about the future, more aware of their “future self,” and more willing to wait for longer-term rewards, found University of Southern California ’s Priyanka D. Joshi and Nathanael J. Fast.

Specifically, participants assigned to high-power roles and to power priming instructions were less likely to display temporal discounting, or choosing smaller short-term rewards over larger goals that require a longer waiting period.

This suggests that people who feel powerful have a sense of abundance in other domains, including time and money.
As a result, feeling powerful enables people to forego current rewards, “delay gratification,” and make present investments to achieve potentially larger longer-term pay-offs.

-*How do you increase your personal experience of power and time perspective?

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