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

Episodic memory versus episodic foresight: Similarities and differences

Published: January, 2010

Investigator(s): Other Investigator(s)

Researcher(s): Suddendorf, T.


There are logical and empirical grounds that link episodic memory and the ability to imagine future events. In some sense, both episodic memory and episodic foresight may be regarded as two sides of the same capacity to travel mentally in time. After reviewing some of the recent evidence for commonalities, I discuss limits of these parallels. There are fundamental differences between thinking about past and future events that need to be kept in clear view if we are to make progress in understanding the nature of mental time travel. The reviewed evidence suggests that mental time travel is based on a complex system selected not for accuracy about past and future per se, but for fitness benefits. Functional analyses promise to lead to fruitful avenues for future research.

JTF grant funded: No