Hedonic and Non-Hedonic Bias toward the Future

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (1):148-163 (2021)
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It has widely been assumed, by philosophers, that our first-person preferences regarding pleasurable and painful experiences exhibit a bias toward the future (positive and negative hedonic future-bias), and that our preferences regarding non-hedonic events (both positive and negative) exhibit no such bias (non-hedonic time-neutrality). Further, it has been assumed that our third-person preferences are always time-neutral. Some have attempted to use these (presumed) differential patterns of future-bias—different across kinds of events and perspectives—to argue for the irrationality of hedonic future-bias. This paper experimentally tests these descriptive hypotheses. While as predicted we found first-person hedonic future-bias, we did not find that participants were time-neutral in all other conditions. Hence, the presumed asymmetry of hedonic/non-hedonic and first/third-person preferences cannot be used to argue for the irrationality of future-bias, since no such asymmetries exist. Instead, we develop a more fine-grained approach, according to which three factors—positive/negative valence, first/third-person, and hedonic/non-hedonic—each independently influence, but do not determine, whether an event is treated in a future-biased or time-neutral way. We discuss the upshots of these results for the debate over the rationality of future-bias.
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First archival date: 2019-05-06
Latest version: 2 (2019-10-29)
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