Resisting temptation and overcoming procrastination: The roles of mental time travel and metacognition

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 21 (4):791-811 (2022)
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Abstract

We tend to seek immediate gratification at the expense of long-term reward. In fact, the more distant a reward is from the present moment?the more we tend to discount it. This phenomenon is known as temporal discounting. Engaging in mental time travel plausibly enables subjects to overcome temporal discounting, but it is unclear how, exactly, it does so. In this paper, we develop a framework designed to explain the effects of mental time travel on temporal discounting by showing how the subject?s temporally extended self enables mental time travel to generate appropriate emotions that, in turn, via metacognitive monitoring and control, generate appropriate behaviours. Building on existing approaches we outline an initial framework, involving the concepts of emotion and the temporally extended self, to explain the effects of mental time travel on resisting temptation. We then show that this initial framework has difficulty explaining the effects of mental time travel on a closely related phenomenon, namely, overcoming procrastination. We next argue that, in order to explain these effects, the concept of emotion needs to be refined, and the concept of metacognition needs to be added to the framework: emotions involve an action-readiness component, which, through metacognitive monitoring and control, can enable the subject to resist temptation and overcome procrastination. Finally, we respond to an objection to our account?based on the somatic marker hypothesis?such that metacognition is not necessary to account for the role of emotions in decision-making.

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Author Profiles

Christopher Jude McCarroll
National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University
Erica Cosentino
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

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