Synthese 198 (12):11327-11349 (2020)

Authors
Andrew James Latham
Aarhus University
Kristie Miller
University of Sydney
James Norton
University of Iceland
1 more
Abstract
Philosophers have long noted, and empirical psychology has lately confirmed, that most people are “biased toward the future”: we prefer to have positive experiences in the future, and negative experiences in the past. At least two explanations have been offered for this bias: belief in temporal passage and the practical irrelevance of the past resulting from our inability to influence past events. We set out to test the latter explanation. In a large survey, we find that participants exhibit significantly less future bias when asked to consider scenarios where they can affect their own past experiences. This supports the “practical irrelevance” explanation of future bias. It also suggests that future bias is not an inflexible preference hardwired by evolution, but results from a more general disposition to “accept the things we cannot change”. However, participants still exhibited substantial future bias in scenarios in which they could affect the past, leaving room for complementary explanations. Beyond the main finding, our results also indicate that future bias is stake-sensitive and that participants endorse the normative correctness of their future-biased preferences and choices. In combination, these results shed light on philosophical debates over the rationality of future bias, suggesting that it may be a rational response to empirical realities rather than a brute, arational disposition.
Keywords future bias  time bias  choice  preference
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Reprint years 2021
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-020-02791-0
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
What Makes Time Special.Craig Callender - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
Thank Goodness That's Over.A. N. Prior - 1959 - Philosophy 34 (128):12 - 17.

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Citations of this work BETA

Why Future-Bias Isn't Rationally Evaluable.Callie K. Phillips - 2021 - Res Philosophica 98 (4):573-596.

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