Humans frequently create mental models of the future, allowing outcomes to be inferred in advance of their occurrence. Recent evidence suggests that imagining positive future events reduces delay discounting (the devaluation of reward with time until its receipt), while imagining negative future events may increase it. Here, using a sample of 297 participants, we experimentally assess the effects of cued episodic simulation of positive and negative future scenarios on decision-making in the context of both delay discounting (monetary choice questionnaire) and risk-taking (balloon-analogue risk task). Participants discounted the future less when cued to imagine positive and negative future scenarios than they did when cued to engage in control neutral imagery. There were no effects of experimental condition on risk-taking. Thus, although these results replicate previous findings suggesting episodic future simulation can reduce delay discounting, they indicate that this effect is not dependent on the valence of the thoughts, and does not generalise to all other forms of “impulsive” decision-making. We discuss various interpretations of these results, and suggest avenues for further research on the role of prospection in decision-making.
|Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)
|Early online date
|23 Jan 2019
|E-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2019