Phenomenal characteristics associated with projecting oneself back into the past and forward into the future: Influence of valence and temporal distance

Consciousness and Cognition 13 (4):844-858 (2004)
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As humans, we frequently engage in mental time travel, reliving past experiences and imagining possible future events. This study examined whether similar factors affect the subjective experience associated with remembering the past and imagining the future. Participants mentally “re-experienced” or “pre-experienced” positive and negative events that differed in their temporal distance from the present , and then rated the phenomenal characteristics associated with their representations. For both past and future, representations of positive events were associated with a greater feeling of re-experiencing than representations of negative events. In addition, representations of temporally close events contained more sensorial and contextual details, and generated a stronger feeling of re-experiencing than representations of temporally distant events. It is suggested that the way we both remember our past and imagine our future is constrained by our current goals



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