Future-oriented thought and decision making

As humans, we are capable of anticipating, simulating, and preparing for the future. The more effectively we use these abilities, the better equipped we are to choose actions and behaviours that will help us to adapt to future challenges. Psychology has seen a surge of research interest in “future thinking” over the past decade, and in the MAD lab we have recently started a number of research projects examining age differences in this cognitive domain. For example, we are investigating age differences in the impact of goals on future thinking, as well as age differences in the effect of future thinking on prospective memory (remembering to carry out an intention). We are also studying age differences in temporal discounting – the tendency of human decision makers to devalue future rewards, and to pursue immediate rewards. New studies in the lab are exploring the impact of other factors, such as altruistic motives and acute stress, on future-oriented cognition. This line of research is supported by an Early Researcher Award from Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation.