Imagining the future: A bird's eye view

Thom, J.M., Clayton, N.S., & Simons, J.S. (2013). The Psychologist, 26, 418-421.

The future is where we will live the rest of our lives, so we devote a lot of the present to planning for it. Psychological research has provided insights into such 'episodic future thinking', which can take several forms: maintaining delayed intentions to perform specific actions in the future, imagining future events as a way to help plan for possible eventualities, and thinking about the future to enable us to make better long-term decisions. Understanding of how future thinking works must be complemented by the question of function: What is future-thinking for? We argue that comparisons of future thinking across species are a vital analytical tool. Animal models such as the Western scrub-jay highlight the evolutionary forces driving intelligence, and challenge our assumptions about the uniqueness of human future-thinking, and how good we are at it.