Teaching and Learning Guide for: The Temporally Extended Self: The Relation of Past and Future Selves to Current Identity, Motivation, and Goal Pursuit

Authors


Abstract

Author's Introduction

People have long been fascinated by the notion of time travel. Physicists, philosophers, and fortune tellers have all grappled with whether and how we might grasp the past and the future. From H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine to the cartoon Futurama, the implications, paradoxes, and promises of time travel frequently appear in fiction, film, and popular culture. In 2005, a student from MIT even hosted a time travelers’ convention in the hope that representatives from the future would come upon the invitation and pop back for a visit. Not to be outdone, psychologists have focused their energies on mental time travel, developing methods allowing us to understand how people take trips down memory lane, and how they sneak preview their own anticipated future. Some theorists have argued that humans’ capacity for mental time travel forms the basis for many aspects of human culture. Psychologists have approached these questions from many angles, from studying personal narratives to examining patterns of brain activation. Converging results from a range of methods have suggested notable parallels between the past and the future from how they are constructed and reconstructed. Just as a palaeontologist reconstructs a dinosaur out of fragments of recovered bone (and a good theory of how they might all fit together), we use fragments of the past, along with our beliefs and theories about the self through time, to reconstruct autobiographical episodes. We often draw on these past experiences to allow us to project ‘what ifs’ into the future and to construct elaborate, if hypothetical, plans for what is to come. Our personal memories and corresponding future predictions are even represented in similar areas of the brain, and amnesic patients who lose their personal history often also lose their grasp on a personal future and even their sense of self. In our research lab, we have been interested in how current identity guides people's memories of their past and their expectations and plans for future selves, and how, in turn, personal memories and self-predictions help to determine current self and identity. Past and future selves may be ephemeral, but they are not inconsequential. Not only do they affect present self-views, but they also serve to motivate goal-pursuit and influence decisions. In our lab (and many others), we examine some of the interconnections between past, present, and future selves, identity, motivation, and behavior.

Author Recommends: References

1. A. E. Wilson & M. Ross. 2001. From chump to champ: People's appraisals of their earlier and present selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80: 572–584.

This empirical paper demonstrates that people may often retrospectively criticize past selves even when concurrent evaluation did not show any actual improvement over the same time period. Derogating distant former selves can contribute to a sense of improvement and flatter the current self.

2. M. Ross & A. E. Wilson. 2002. It feels like yesterday: Self-esteem, valence of personal past experiences, and judgments of subjective distance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82: 792–803.

This empirical paper examines how people may shift their subjective distance from good and bad past selves to maintain a positive present self-view. Participants regarded negative past experiences as temporally far away and positive past experiences as temporally close – this strategy was particularly common among people high in self-esteem.

3. A. E. Wilson & M. Ross. 2003. The identity function of autobiographical memory: Time is on our side. Memory, 11: 137–149.

This paper reviews evidence of bi-directional links between memory and identity: Current identity influences autobiographical memory but past experiences likewise influence people's views of their present selves. People's constructions of themselves through time serve the function of creating a coherent – and largely favorable – identity.

4. A. E. Wilson & M. Ross. 2000. The frequency of temporal-self and social comparisons in people's personal appraisals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78: 928–942.

This empirical paper demonstrates that although temporal comparisons have been studied far less extensively than social comparisons, they are important in people's self-appraisals. Several studies demonstrate that participants report as many or more temporal-past comparisons than social comparisons, particularly when they are interested in enhancing themselves.

5. E. J. Strahan & A. E. Wilson. 2006. Temporal comparisons, identity, and motivation: The relation between past, present, and possible future selves. In: C. Dunkel, & J. Kerpelman (Eds.), Possible selves: Theory, research and applications. pp. 1–15. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

This chapter reviews research examining temporally extended selves, with a focus on the relations between present and future self and its implications for identity, motivation, and goal-pursuit behavior.

6. M. Ross & R. Buehler. 2004. Identity through time: Constructing personal pasts and futures. In: M. B. Brewer, & M. Hewstone (Eds.), Self and Social Identity. pp. 25–51. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

This theoretical review paper describes how people think about their past and future selves, and discusses why it is important to understand these processes.

7. H. Markus & P. Nurius. 1986. Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41: 954–969.

This theoretical paper suggested that possible selves function as incentives for behavior and provided a standard against which one can measure the current or the actual future self. This piece inspired a great deal of subsequent research exploring its contentions.

8. G. Oettingen & D. Mayer. 2002. The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83: 1198–1212.

This empirical paper illustrates the importance of how people think about the future. Oettingen and Mayer study how people's thoughts about their future selves can have very different effects depending on whether people fantasize or expect future successes.

9. N. Liberman, Y. Trope & E. Stephan. 2007. Psychological distance. In: A. W. Kruglanski & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

This chapter reviews groundbreaking theory and research examining temporal distance effects on cognition. Liberman et al. discuss how psychological distance in general (with a focus on temporal distance) can affect people's cognitions about and construals of close or distant events.

10. L. K. Libby & R. P. Eibach. 2007. How the self affects and reflects the content and subjective experience of autobiographical memory. In: C. Sedikides & S. Spencer (Eds.), The Self. pp. 75–91. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

This chapter reviews work examining the links between self and memory, with a focus on research on visual perspective, which has been show to play an important role in how temporal selves are psychologically connected.

Online Materials

General information

1. The Exploratorium museum in San Francisco online Memory Exhibits: http://www.exploratorium.edu/memory/index.html

This website provides articles about autobiographical memory, interactive memory demonstrations, and interesting facts about memory research.

2. Procrastination research group homepage: http://http-server.carleton.ca/~tpychyl/

This website indexes recent articles and key findings in procrastination research. It is also presented in a very user-friendly way including many interactive or fun details.

3. The brain fitness channel on autobiographical memory: http://bfc.positscience.com/brain/autobiographical_memory.php

4. The Time Paradox http://www.thetimeparadox.com/. This book by Philip Zimbardo has a website with some interesting features, such as:

5. ‘A New Improved Me: Now Appearing Everywhere’, New York Times article by Erica Goode

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9500EEDE1E3EF933A-25757C0A9679C8B63&sec = &spon=&pagewanted=all#

6. Experience and perception of time: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time-experience/

This Stanford Encyclopedia articles introduces the reader to a brief overview of the philosophical perspective on time perception.

7. From CROW (Course Resources on the Web) created by Jonathan Mueller, a number of resources related to reconstructing memory: http://jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/crow/topicbeliefs.htm#reconstructing

8. Quotations about time: http://thinkexist.com/quotations/time/

Fun interactive demonstrations

1. Transform your face to how it might have looked in the past or as you might appear in the future: http://www.faceofthefuture.org

This website invites the user to upload a picture of themselves and use a computer algorithm to make the picture age or get younger. This tool is a fun illustration of the ‘Temporal Self’.

2. The Future Game: play the role of a middle aged or older person online: http://showmethefuture.org/game/howTo.cfm

3. Create an email to send to yourself in the future: http://www.futureme.org

On this website, you can send an email to yourself at any point in time in the future. This tool illustrates the distinctness of future selves by inducing the writer to treat their future selves as another person (i.e., they write a message to themselves).

4. Memory trigger page: http://www.triggers.com/tcup_and_mad.html

This page leads the user through a number of memory triggers (e.g., smell, sounds) to illustrate the richness of our memory for our past self.

Sample Syllabus

‘The self over time’

This seminar is designed to familiarize you with a range of topics broadly related to the self from a social psychological perspective and, more specifically, to the self in time. A primary course objective will be to achieve a better understanding of how social psychologists can apply a variety of scientific research methods to gain insights into the self as it is represented in the past, present, and future. This seminar style course is intended to develop not only students’ knowledge of the course topics, but also to hone critical thinking and communication skills.

All students are expected to read the required weekly readings and may read the optional materials. Depending on time and interest, each section could be covered in one week or broken into two or more weeks. Each week, one to two student presenters will prepare oral presentations on research related to the week's topic (selected either from the optional readings or in consultation with the instructor).

Course Requirements and Grading: Class participation (30%); Weekly Critical Thought Questions/Comments (at least one comment/question for each required reading) (10%); Two thought papers/research proposals (30%); Article Oral Presentations (30%).

SectionsReadings
* marks required readings for that section
Part I
The Self
*R. F. Baumeister. 1989. The self. In: Gilbert, D.T., Fiske, S.T., & Lindzey, G. (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology, Vol. 1, pp. 680–740.
*J. F. Kihlstrom, J. S. Beer & S. B. Klein. 2003. Self and identity as memory. In: M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self & identity. pp. 68–90. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
J. D. Brown & K. A. Dutton. 1995. Truth and consequences: The costs and benefits of accurate self-knowledge. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21: 1288–1296.
H. R. Markus & S. Kitayama. 1991. Culture and the self: implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98: 224–253.
H. Markus & Z. Kunda. 1986. Stability and malleability of the self-concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51: 858–866.
R. E. Nisbett & T. D. Wilson. 1977. Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84: 231–259.
D. Oyserman. 2001. Self-concept and identity. In: A. Tesser & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Intraindividual processes. pp. 499–517. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Part II
The Self Across Time
*A. G. Greenwald. 1980. The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history. American Psychologist, 35: 603–618.
*M. Ross. 1989. The relation of implicit theories to the construction of personal histories. Psychological Review, 96: 341–357.
M. K Johnson & S. J. Sherman. 1990. Constructing and reconstructing the past and the future in the present. In: E. T. Higgins & R. M. Sorrentino (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior. Vol. 2, pp. 482–526. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
R. Karniol & M. Ross. 1996. The motivational impact of temporal focus: Thinking about the future and the past. Annual Review of Psychology, 47: 593–620.
T. Habermas & S. Bluck. 2000. Getting a life: The emergence of the life story in adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 126: 748–769.
I. R. Newby-Clark & M. Ross. 2003. Conceiving the past and future. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29: 807–818.
E. F. Williams & T. Gilovich. 2008. Conceptions of the self and others across time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34: 1037–1046.
E. Pronin & L. Ross. 2006. Temporal differences in trait self-ascription: When the self is seen as an other. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90: 197–209.
M. D. Robinson & C. D. Ryff. 1999. The role of self-deception in perceptions of past, present, and future happiness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25: 595–606.
L. K. Libby, R. P. Eibach & T. Gilovich. 2005. Here's looking at me: The effects of memory perspective on assessments of personal change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88: 50–62.
C. McFarland. & C. Alvaro. 2000. The impact of motivation on temporal comparisons: Coping with traumatic events by perceiving personal growth. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79: 327–343.
W. Fleeson & J. Heckhausen. 1997. More or less ‘me’ in past, present, and future: Perceived lifetime personality during adulthood. Psychology and Aging, 12: 125–136.
G. R. Semin & E. R. Smith. 1999. Revisiting the past and back to the future: Memory systems and the linguistic representation of social events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76: 877–892.
Part III
Autobiographical Memory
*K. Nelson & R. Fivush. 2004. The emergence of autobiographical memory: A social cultural developmental theory. Psychological Review, 111: 486–511.
*L. K. Libby & R. P. Eibach. 2007. How the self affects and reflects the content and subjective experience of autobiographical memory. In: C. Sedikides & S. Spencer (Eds.), The Self. pp. 75–91. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
L. K. Libby & R. P. Eibach. 2002. Looking back in time: Self-concept change affects visual perspective in autobiographical memory. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 82: 167–179.
M. A. Conway & C. W. Pleydell Pearce. 2000. The construction of autobiographical memories in the self memory system. Psychological Review, 107: 261–288.
T. C. Christensen, J. V. Wood & L. F. Barrett. 2003. Remembering everyday experience through the prism of self-esteem. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 29: 51–62.
M. Conway & M. Ross. 1984. Getting what you want by revising what you had. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 47: 738–748.
H. P. Bahrick, L. K. Hall & S. A. Berger. 1996. Accuracy and distortion in memory for high school grades. Psychological Science, 7: 265–271.
R. H. Gramzow & G. Willard. 2006. Exaggerating current and past performance: Motivated self-enhancement versus reconstructive memory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32: 1114–1125.
U. Neisser. 1978. Memory: What are the important questions? In: M. M. Gruneberg, P. E. Morris, & R. N. Sykes (Eds.), Practical aspects of memory. pp. 3–24. London, UK: Academic Press.
C. Routledge, J. Arndt, C. Sedikides & T. Wildschut. 2008. A blast from the past: The terror management function of nostalgia. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44: 132–140.
S. Lyubomirsky, N. Caldwell & S. Nolen-Hoeksema. 1998. Effects of ruminative and distracting responses to depressed moods on retrieval of autobiographical memories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75: 166–177.
E. Holman & R. Silver. 1998. Getting ‘stuck’ in the past: Temporal orientation and coping with trauma. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74: 1146–1163.
R. P. Eibach, L. K. Libby & T. D. Gilovich. 2003. When change in the self is mistaken for change in the world. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84: 917–931.
J. J. Skowronski. 2004. Giving sight and voice to the blind mutes: An overview of theoretical ideas in autobiographical memory. Social Cognition, 22: 451–459.
Part IV
Temporal Self-Appraisal Theory
*A. E. Wilson & M. Ross. 2003. The identity function of autobiographical memory: Time is on our side. Memory, 11: 137–149.
*A. E. Wilson & M. Ross. 2001. From chump to champ: People's appraisals of their earlier and current selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80: 572–584.
G. Haddock. 2004. Temporal self-appraisal and attributional focus. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40: 787–794.
A. E. Wilson & M. Ross. 2000. The frequency of temporal-self and social comparisons in people's personal appraisals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78: 928–942.
P. Broemer, A. Grabowski, J. E. Gebauer, O. Ermel & M. Diehl. 2008. How temporal distance from past selves influences self-perception. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38: 697–714.
J. E. Gebauer, P. Broemer, G. Haddock & U. von Hecker. 2008. Inclusion-exclusion of positive and negative past selves: Mood congruence as information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95: 470–487.
J. Peetz & A. E. Wilson. 2008. The temporally extended self: The relation of past and future selves to current identity, motivation, and goal pursuit. Social and Personality Compass.
Part V
Time Judgments and Time Perception
*N. R. Brown, L. J. Rips & S. K. Shevell. 1985. The subjective dates of natural events in very-long-term memory. Cognitive Psychology, 17: 139–177.
*M. Ross & A. E. Wilson. 2002. It feels like yesterday: Self-esteem, valence of personal past experiences, and judgments of subjective distance. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 82: 792–803.
J. J. Skowronski, W. R. Walker & A. L. Betz. 2003. Ordering our world: An examination of time in autobiographical memory. Memory, 11: 247–260.
S. Frederick. 2003. Time preferences and personal identity. In: G. Loewenstein, D. Read, & R. Baumeister (Eds.), Time and decision: Economic and psychological perspectives on intertemporal choice. pp. 89–113. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
K. D. Vohs & B. J. Schmeichel. 2003. Self-regulation and extended now: Controlling the self alters the subjective experience of time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85: 217–230.
R. A. Block & D. Zakay. 1997. Prospective and retrospective duration judgments: A meta-analytic review, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 4: 184–97.
L. G. Conway. 2004. Social contagion of time perception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40: 113–120.
L. L. Carstensen, D. M. Isaacowitz & S. T. Charles. 1999. Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist, 54: 165–81.
D. Ariely & G. Loewenstein. 2000. When does duration matter in judgment and decision making. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129: 508–523.
B. L. Fredrickson & D. Kahneman. 1993. Duration neglect in retrospective evaluations of affective episodes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65: 44–55.
P. G. Zimbardo & J. N. Boyd. 1999. Putting time in perspective: A valid, reliable individual-differences metric. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77: 1271–88.
Part VI
Psychological Theories Exploring the Role of Time in Judgment, Decision and Behavior
*N. Liberman, Y. Trope & E. Stephan. 2007. Psychological distance. In: A. W. Kruglanski & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles, New York, NY: Guilford Press.
*W. Mischel, J. Grusec & J. C. Masters. 1969. Effects of expected delay time on the subjective value of rewards and punishments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 11: 363–373.
S. Frederick, G. Loewenstein & T. O'Donoghue. 2003. Time discounting and time preference: A critical review. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
W. Mischel, Y. Shoda & M. L. Rodriguez. 1989. Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244: 933–938.
T. Gilovich, M. Kerr & V. H. Medvec. 1993. Effect of temporal perspective on subjective confidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64: 552–560.
C. J. Wakslak, S. Nussbaum, N. Liberman & Y. Trope. 2008. Representations of the self in the near and distant future. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95: 757–757.
N. Liberman, M. D. Sagristano & Y. Trope. 2002. The effect of temporal distance on level of mental construal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38: 523–534.
N. Liberman & Y. Trope. 1998. The role of feasibility and desirability considerations in near and distant future decisions: A test of temporal construal theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75: 5–18.
M. D. Sagristano, Y. Trope & N. Liberman. 2002. Time-dependent gambling: Odds now, money later. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 131: 364–376.
K. Savitsky, V. H. Medvec, A. E. Charlton & T. Gilovich. 1998. ‘What me, worry?’ Arousal, misattribution, and the effect of temporal distance on confidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24: 529–536.
E. Pronin, C. Y. Olivola & K. A. Kennedy. 2008. Doing unto future selves as you would do unto others: Psychological distance and decision making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34: 224–236.
Part VII
Intended, Expected, and Possible Future Selves
*H. Markus & P. Nurius. 1986. Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41: 954–969.
*G. Oettingen & D. Mayer. 2002. The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83: 1198–1212.
D. Oyserman, K. Terry & D. Bybee. 2002. A possible selves intervention to enhance school involvement. Journal of Adolescence, 25: 313–326.
C. D. Ryff. 1991. Possible selves in adulthood and old age: A tale of shifting horizons. Psychology and Aging, 6: 286–295.
S. E. Taylor, L. B. Pham, I. D. Rivkin & D. A. Armor. 1998. Harnessing the imagination: Mental stimulation, self-regulation, and coping. American Psychologist, 53: 429–439.
J. Peetz, A. E. Wilson & E. J. Strahan. forthcoming. Feeling close to future glories: The impact of subjective distance to future goals on motivation and behavior. Social Cognition.
L. J. Sanna, E. C. Chang, S. E. Carter & E. M. Small. 2006. The future is now: Prospective temporal self-appraisals among defensive pessimists and optimists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32: 727–739.
J. Kruger & T. Gilovich. 2004. Actions, intentions, and self-assessment: The road to self-enhancement is paved with good intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30: 328–339.
N. A. Vasquez & R. Buehler. 2007. Seeing future success: Does imagery perspective influence achievement motivation? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33: 1392–1405.
Part VIII
Forecasting the Future
*R. Buehler, D. Griffin & M. Ross. 2002. Inside the planning fallacy: The causes and consequences of optimistic time predictions. In: T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, and D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgement. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
*D. T. Gilbert, E. C. Pinel, T. D. Wilson, S. J. Blumberg & T. P. Wheatley. 1998. Immune neglect: A source of durability bias in affective forecasting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75: 617–638.
D. A. Armor & A. M. Sackett. 2006. Accuracy, error, and bias in predictions for real versus hypothetical events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91: 583–600.
R. Buehler, D. Griffin & H. MacDonald. 1997. The role of motivated reasoning in optimistic time predictions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23: 238–247.
T. M. Osberg & J. S. Shrauger. 1986. Self-prediction: Exploring the parameters of accuracy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51: 1044–1057.
S. P. Pezzo, M. V. Pezzo & E. R. Stone. 2006. The social implications of planning: How public predictions bias future plans. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42: 221–227.
J. A. Shepperd, J. A. Ouellette & J. K, Fernandez. 1996. Abandoning unrealistic optimism: Performance estimates and the temporal proximity of self-relevant feedback. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70: 844–855.
E. R. Igou. 2008. ‘How long will I suffer?’ versus ‘ how long will you suffer?’ A self-other effect in affective forecasting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95: 899–899.

Focus Questions about The Temporally Extended Self: The Relation of Past and Future Selves to Current Identity, Motivation, and Goal Pursuit

  • 1People appear to revise their evaluations and memories about past selves, their judgments of how long ago an event occurred, etc. in order to maintain a favorable current self-view. Consider some of the following: (1) Under what circumstances might people be especially likely to construct these downward temporal comparisons?; (2) When people would be particularly prone not to revise the past; (3) when revision of the past might lead to serious psychological or interpersonal difficulties; and (4) when might people be inclined to enhance (rather than derogate) even very distant past selves.
  • 2Why did the researchers focus on subjective temporal distance rather than objective temporal distance (e.g., calendar or clock time)? Can you think of any other domains in which people's perception of an event is more psychologically relevant than the objective nature of the event?
  • 3Apart from academic or health goals, what are other domains in which feeling subjectively close to the end state might motivate goal-directed behavior?
  • 4Possible selves might motivate people either to work toward certain goals or to avoid certain fates. Might past selves play a similar role? What factors might determine whether and how people might map their past selves onto their future selves and goals?

Project/Demonstration Ideas (for instructor)

  • 1Show all students timelines with different anchors (e.g., future anchors: end of this term, end of university education, Year 2050; past anchors: birth, start of high school, start of university) and ask them to place the same target event on each of the three timelines (e.g., on the future timeline: next midterm; on the past timeline: their first university exam). This demonstrates how malleable spatial representations of temporal distance and helps to illustrate how subjective distance can be tied to these spatial representations.
  • 2Ask students to list sayings connected with time (e.g., ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, ‘a watched pot never boils’, ‘When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.’ Albert Einstein) and describe how they connect with the malleability of subjective time described in the article.
  • 3Ask students to rate themselves on a number of positive and negative personality attributes as they were in the last year of high school (past self), as they are now (current self) and as they will be the year after graduation (future self). Then ask them to do the same for an acquaintance that they have known since high school. Students will typically report more change in their self-ratings, steadily improving from past to present to future, than in their other-ratings.
  • 4Ask students to think of a past or future event that was/will be either very negative or quite positive. Then ask them to indicate how far away this event feels (regardless of how far it really is). Students will generally report feeling closer to the positive event.
  • 5Ask students who are willing to self identify as ‘procrastinators’ or ‘non-procrastinators’ to imagine that you gave them an assignment today that was due in 3 weeks’ time. Ask them to describe what thoughts go through their mind as they consider the assignment, including how close or distant the deadline seems to them from now. Generally, procrastinators will view the deadline as further away and feel that there is lots of time to complete their goals, while non-procrastinators will tend to feel a sense of urgency to get going due to the relatively imminent deadline.
  • 6Have students construct a time line that extends at least a few months past the current school term. Ask them to fill in all of their current projects, goals and deadlines from now until the end of the term, and ask them to refer to the time line daily for the next week. Have them write a reflection paper on whether and how they think that visualizing their upcoming projects as quite imminent on a spatial time line might have affected their motivation and action toward these goals.

Short Biography

Anne Wilson received her PhD at the University of Waterloo in 2000 and is currently Associate Professor and a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Social Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Her research interests include identity over time, autobiographical memory and self-prediction, comparison processes, the psychology of time perception, collective memory, and sociocultural influences on the self. Her work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and has appeared in journals such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Johanna Peetz is a PhD student at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is interested in people's thoughts about themselves through time and how these reflect on current actions. Her current research focuses on prediction about time and money investments in future projects and their effect on project-relevant behaviors.

Endnote

* Correspondence address: A Wilson. Email: awilson@wlu.ca

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