The Future Is Further

More data supporting the idea that we treat the future as more far than the past:

In three studies, we demonstrate that people judge the same behavior as more intentional when it will be performed in the future than when it has been performed in the past. We found this temporal asymmetry in perceptions of both the strength of an individual‟s intention and the overall prevalence of intentional behavior in a population. Because of its heightened intentionality, people thought the same transgression deserved more severe punishment when it would occur in the future than when it did occur in the past. …

People are more likely to make spontaneous reference to intentions when talking about their future prospects than their past experiences. … Affect alone was not sufficient to explain why future transgressions warranted harsher punishment than past transgressions. … Eeven mundane behaviors (e.g., watering plants) are rated as more intentional in the future than the past, and that the temporal asymmetry is larger for relatively more intentional actions than relatively less intentional ones. (more; HT Tyler)

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  • EH

    Past = experience –> future actions have the benefit of up-to-date wealth of knowledge; the past can plead ignorance.

  • Rob

    How exactly does people weighting future actions as more intentional imply that they view the future as farther away? I think that’s a misinterpretation. Above commenter’s interpretation much better.

  • steve

    It’s a mystery to me.