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Episode 97: Meghan Sullivan discusses time biases

This month, Meghan Sullivan (University of Notre Dame) urges us to consider how we feel about the past, present, and future. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Remember the marshmallow test? Back in the 1970s, some psychological experiments suggested that people who opted to delay short-term rewards if it meant a bigger reward in the future were likely to have more successful lives. These days, we’re all prepared to believe that we should try to ignore that voice inside our heads telling us to prefer instant gratification, and instead save up for the future, like the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable. But Meghan Sullvian thinks that is just the tip of the iceberg. Caring more about pleasant experiences when they’re in the here and now, she thinks, is just a special case of a more general phenomenon: namely, caring differently about whether something happens based only on when it happens. And if we recognize that that more general bias is irrational, then we’re on the hook for way more than just saving up for the future. We should instead strive to be temporally neutral. So for example, a temporally neutral person wouldn’t prefer a traumatic experience that already happened over a traumatic experience that was coming up next week.

Join us as our guest walks us through a whole family of biases we have about when the events in our lives happen!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Podcast.


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