Psychonomic Society’s 62nd Annual Meeting

Presentation title: Personal likelihood and familiarity in the simulation of future events

Abstract: Episodic future thinking is the ability to project the self forward in time to pre-experience an event (Atance & O’Neill, 2001). Understanding how people think about potential future events is an important component of human memory research. We investigated whether and how episodic future thinking is influenced by a person's familiarity with that type of event based on their past experience, as well as a person's belief of the likelihood of its future occurrence in their lives. The individual and combined effects of these variables have been little studied, particularly likelihood. We used three norming studies to develop participant-specific sets of future events that varied by familiarity and likelihood. Participants generated events and rated phenomenological aspects of their simulations. Familiarity and likelihood interacted in influencing people's simulation of future events, specifically on the simulated perceptual information. Both variables influenced episodic future event simulations on their own as well. The enhancement of future event simulations by the likelihood of an event occurring in a person's future suggests that it is an important part of the underlying mechanisms that support episodic future thinking.

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