Making decisions about the future: Regret and the cognitive function of episodic memory

In Kourken Michaelian, Stanley B. Klein & Karl K. Szpunar (eds.), Seeing the Future: Theoretical Perspectives on Future-Oriented Mental Time Travel. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 241-266 (2016)
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In the recent literature on episodic memory, there has been increasing recognition of the need to provide an account of its adaptive function. In this context, it is sometimes argued that episodic memory is critical for certain forms of decision making about the future. We criticize existing accounts that try to give episodic memory a role in decision making, before giving a novel such account of our own. This turns on the thought of a link between episodic memory and the emotion of regret. We discuss how both experienced and anticipated regret can have a distinctive influence on decision making, and argue that the ability to recollect past events in episodic memory underpins the capacity to engage in the sophisticated types of mental time travel recruited in experiencing and anticipating regret.

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