Psychology of long-term thinking


Last Friday I attended the Prediction Markets Summit here in San Francisco.  I met Robin Hanson there who clued me into an article published in Science (subscr. req’d.) on the Psychology of Transcending the Here and Now.  Most impressive is that the study itself seems to span several decades.  Hanson wrote this up on his blog here, and takes the idea further here.  This is the first serious study I have seen on how humans do long-term thinking, and it makes me realize that I should pay more attention to the world of psychology.


People directly experience only themselves here and now but often consider, evaluate, and plan situations that are removed in time or space, that pertain to others’ experiences, and that are hypothetical rather than real. People thus transcend the present and mentally traverse temporal distance, spatial distance, social distance, and hypotheticality. We argue that this is made possible by the human capacity for abstract processing of information. We review research showing that there is considerable similarity in the way people mentally traverse different distances, that the process of abstraction underlies traversing different distances, and that this process guides the way people predict, evaluate, and plan near and distant situations.

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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