A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

The association between past and future oriented thinking: Evidence from autism spectrum disorder.

Published: November, 2012

Investigator(s): Other Investigator(s)

Researcher(s): Lind, S. E. & Williams, D. M.


A number of recently developed theories (e.g., the constructive episodic simulation, self-projection, and scene construction hypotheses) propose that the ability to simulate possible future events (sometimes referred to as episodic future thinking, prospection, or foresight) depends on the same neurocognitive system that is implicated in the recall of past events (episodic memory). In this paper, we argue that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) offers an ideal test of such theories, given that it is a developmental disorder that is characterized by impairments in episodic memory. Each of these theories would predict concomitant impairments in episodic future thinking among individuals with ASD. We review evidence concerning episodic future thinking in ASD, as well as studies of prospective memory (remembering to do something in the future), planning, navigation, and theory of mind, which some theories suggest also rely on the same mechanism as episodic future thinking.

JTF grant funded: No