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Present-Future Border

February 7, 2014

Moving the imaginary border between the past and the future may affect how you manage your money.



When does the future start? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Susanne Bard)

(Susanne Bard)

When does the present end and the future begin? According to University of Toronto marketing professor Sam Maglio, that’s not just a Zen riddle, it’s a question that shapes our behavior. In a financial planning simulation, for example, his team found that the sooner people believe the future starts, the more money they allocate to long-term savings. Nudging people think of the future as immediate also makes them more receptive to ads for retirement plans.

SAM MAGLIO (University of Toronto):

… Suggesting that one consequence of a short present and a long future is that people are more attuned to a long-term interest, like planning for their retirement.

He’s also found that people’s perception of when the future starts is very situational, and can be easily manipulated. Maglio will discuss these and other findings at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s annual meeting in Austin. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.