The complex act of projecting oneself into the future

WIREs Cognitive Science 4:63-79 (2013)
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Research on future-oriented mental time travel (FMTT) is highly active yet somewhat unruly. I believe this is due, in large part, to the complexity of both the tasks used to test FMTT and the concepts involved. Extraordinary care is a necessity when grappling with such complex and perplexing metaphysical constructs as self and time and their co-instantiation in memory. In this review, I first discuss the relation between future mental time travel and types of memory (episodic and semantic). I then examine the nature of both the types of self-knowledge assumed to be projected into the future and the types of temporalities that constitute projective temporal experience. Finally, I argue that a person lacking episodic memory should nonetheless be able to imagine a personal future by virtue of (a) the fact that semantic, as well as episodic, memory can be self-referential, (b) autonoetic awareness is not a prerequisite for FMTT, and (c) semantic memory does, in fact, enable certain forms of personally-oriented FMTT.

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Stanley Bernard Klein
University of California at Santa Barbara


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