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Don't stop thinking about tomorrow: Individual differences in future self-continuity account for saving

  • Hal Ersner-Hershfield
  • M. Tess Garton
  • Kacey Ballard
  • Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin
  • Brian Knutson

Some people find it more difficult to delay rewards than others. In three experiments, we tested a ``future self-continuity'' hypothesis that individual differences in the perception of one's present self as continuous with a future self would be associated with measures of saving in the laboratory and everyday life. Higher future self-continuity (assessed by a novel index) predicted reduced discounting of future rewards in a laboratory task, more matches in adjectival descriptions of present and future selves, and greater lifetime accumulation of financial assets (even after controlling for age and education). In addition to demonstrating the reliability and validity of the future self-continuity index, these findings are consistent with the notion that increased future self-continuity might promote saving for the future.

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Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

Volume (Year): 4 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 (June)
Pages: 280-286

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Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:4:y:2009:i:4:p:280-286
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  1. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  2. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
  3. Diamond, Peter & Koszegi, Botond, 2003. "Quasi-hyperbolic discounting and retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 1839-1872, September.
  4. Schelling, Thomas C, 1984. "Self-Command in Practice, in Policy, and in a Theory of Rational Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 1-11, May.
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