Recently, philosophers, economists and psychologists have been invested in the question of time biases. This psychological phenomenon manifests around our preference of when good or bad experiences happen. Walter Mischel, author of The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, explores whether a child offered one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later would choose the former and the consequences for her behavior later in life. Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, authors of Nudge, examine the various biases that cause us to choose poorly from personal investments to schools for our children.
Philosophers like David Velleman and Samuel Scheffler have various labels like near bias, future bias/past discounting and principle of rational planning to explain our preferences about time. Regardless of the esoterica, the bottom line is this: are time biases helpful or harmful? Should the rationality that applies to valuing the past also apply to the future? Would being temporally neutral lead to a better life?
On this episode of Elucidations, Megan Sullivan, Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, shares her thoughts on time biases.
Also, tune in to our upcoming show Cognitive Biases if you want to learn more about our rationality in judgement.