Neural Substrates of Anticipatory Time Perception and Time Discounting

Many decisions, including saving and spending, involve tradeoffs of current and future costs and benefits. One of the most robust finding across research fields looking at this question is that people overweigh the present and tend to ignore future consequences. Recent research in economics, psychology and neuroscience has tried to identify the mechanisms that give rise to such myopic preferences and extreme discounting. This proposal aims to further study one novel mechanism that involves how people perceive anticipatory (future) duration. Specifically, it aims to test the role of time perception in intertemporal decisions by investigating the neural substrates of anticipatory time perception, and how these might be related to the neural substrates of intertemporal choice. The proposal is motivated by two key hypotheses and areas of potential contribution. The first centers on the perception of anticipatory duration. While there is a great deal of research on experienced and elapsed time, we know very little about the underlying neural processes that govern future time perceptions. The second centers on linking the neural activation in future time perception to valuation of outcomes (money) at different points in time. The goal is to test whether activation during a time perception task predicts later intertemporal preferences. The results could shed light on why people compromise their long-term goals by choosing immediate outcomes over delayed ones (e.g., spending money now instead of saving for retirement), as well as potential ways to reduce this effect.
Funded By: 
Award Dates: 
July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2012
PARC Grant Year: 
Year 18