Capacity for Simulation and Mitigation Drives Hedonic and Non-Hedonic Time Biases

Philosophical Psychology (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Until recently, philosophers debating the rationality of time-biases have supposed that people exhibit a first-person hedonic bias toward the future, but that their non-hedonic and third-person preferences are time-neutral. Recent empirical work, however, suggests that our preferences are more nuanced. First, there is evidence that our third-person preferences exhibit time-neutrality only when the individual with respect to whom we have preferences—the preference target—is a random stranger about whom we know nothing; given access to some information about the preference target, third-person preferences mirror first-person preferences. As a result, the simulation hypothesis has been proposed, according to which third-person preferences will mirror first-person preferences when we can simulate the mental states of the preference target. Second, there is evidence that we prefer negative hedonic events to be in our past (we are first-person negatively hedonically future-biased) only when we view future events as fixed and in no way under our control. By contrast, when we perceive it to be within our power to mitigate the badness of future events, we are first-person negatively hedonically past-biased. This is the mitigation hypothesis. We distinguish two versions of the mitigation hypothesis, the squirrelling version and the heuristic version. We ran a study which tested the simulation hypothesis, and which aimed to determine whether the squirrelling or the heuristic version of the mitigation hypothesis enjoys more empirical support. We found support for the heuristic version of the hypothesis, but no support for the squirrelling version.
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First archival date: 2021-07-22
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2021-07-22

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