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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Hal Ersner-Hershfield & M. Tess Garton & Kacey Ballard & Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin & Brian Knutson, 2009. "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow: Individual differences in future self-continuity account for saving," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(4), pages 280-286, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:4:y:2009:i:4:p:280-286

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Diamond, Peter & Koszegi, Botond, 2003. "Quasi-hyperbolic discounting and retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 1839-1872, September.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael P. Keane & Susan Thorp, 2016. "Complex Decision Making: The Roles of Cognitive Limitations, Cognitive Decline and Ageing," Economics Papers 2016-W10, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    2. Kym Irving, 2009. "Overcoming Short-Termism: Mental Time Travel, Delayed Gratification and How Not to Discount the Future," Australian Accounting Review, CPA Australia, vol. 19(4), pages 278-294, December.
    3. repec:eee:hapoch:v1_661 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Tost, Leigh Plunkett & Wade-Benzoni, Kimberly A. & Johnson, Hana Huang, 2015. "Noblesse oblige emerges (with time): Power enhances intergenerational beneficence," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 61-73.
    5. Hershfield, Hal E. & Cohen, Taya R. & Thompson, Leigh, 2012. "Short horizons and tempting situations: Lack of continuity to our future selves leads to unethical decision making and behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 117(2), pages 298-310.
    6. Eli Tsukayama & Angela Lee Duckworth, 2010. "Domain-specific temporal discounting and temptation," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(2), pages 72-82, April.
    7. Davide Pietroni & Sibylla Verdi Hughes, 2016. "Nudge to the future: capitalizing on illusory superiority bias to mitigate temporal discounting," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 15(2), pages 247-264, November.
    8. Koehler, Derek J. & Langstaff, Jesse & Liu, Wu-Qi, 2015. "A simulated financial savings task for studying consumption and retirement decision making," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 89-97.


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