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Trends Cogn Sci. 2001 Dec 1;5(12):533-539.

Episodic future thinking.

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University of Washington, Center for Mind, Brain and Learning, 458 Fisheries Center, Box 357988; 98195,., Seattle, WA, USA


Thinking about the future is an integral component of human cognition - one that has been claimed to distinguish us from other species. Building on the construct of episodic memory, we introduce the concept of 'episodic future thinking': a projection of the self into the future to pre-experience an event. We argue that episodic future thinking has explanatory value when considering recent work in many areas of psychology: cognitive, social and personality, developmental, clinical and neuropsychology. Episodic future thinking can serve as a unifying concept, connecting aspects of diverse research findings and identifying key questions requiring further reflection and study.

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