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Spontaneous and deliberate future thinking: a dual process account

Cole, Scott ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8176-283X and Kvavilashvili, Lia (2019) Spontaneous and deliberate future thinking: a dual process account. Psychological Research.

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Abstract

In this article, we address an apparent paradox in the literature on mental time travel and mind-wandering: How is it possible that future thinking is both constructive, yet often experienced as occurring spontaneously? We identify and describe
two ‘routes’ whereby episodic future thoughts are brought to consciousness, with each of the ‘routes’ being associated with
separable cognitive processes and functions. Voluntary future thinking relies on controlled, deliberate and slow cognitive
processing. The other, termed involuntary or spontaneous future thinking, relies on automatic processes that allows ‘fullyfedged’ episodic future thoughts to freely come to mind, often triggered by internal or external cues. To unravel the paradox,
we propose that the majority of spontaneous future thoughts are ‘pre-made’ (i.e., each spontaneous future thought is a reiteration of a previously constructed future event), and therefore based on simple, well-understood, memory processes. We
also propose that the pre-made hypothesis explains why spontaneous future thoughts occur rapidly, are similar to involuntary
memories, and predominantly about upcoming tasks and goals. We also raise the possibility that spontaneous future thinking is the default mode of imagining the future. This dual process approach complements and extends standard theoretical
approaches that emphasise constructive simulation, and outlines novel opportunities for researchers examining voluntary
and spontaneous forms of future thinking.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01262-7
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF180-198.7 Experimental psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF309-499 Consciousness. Cognition. Memory
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF501-505 Motivation
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF608-635 Will. Volition. Choice. Control
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF636 Applied psychology
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/4208

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