Predicting the phenomenology of episodic future thoughts

Consciousness and Cognition 21 (3):1198-1206 (2012)
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Abstract

Recent findings suggest that multiple event properties contribute to shape the phenomenology of episodic future thoughts, but the specific role of each property is not yet fully understood. This study shows that different phenomenological features are predicted by distinct event properties. The vividness of an episodic future thought largely depends on the familiarity of its constitutive elements , while the visual perspective adopted is instead related to the temporal distance of the imagined event. Cognitive feelings such as the sense of pre-experiencing the future depend on sensory–perceptual qualities, and are further modulated by the personal importance attributed to the event. These findings suggest that the essence of episodic future thought—the sensation of mentally visiting one’s personal future—lies, in part, in the relevance of imagined events with respect to personal goals

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