Judgments over Time: The Interplay of Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

Judgments over Time: The Interplay of Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

Judgments over Time: The Interplay of Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

Judgments over Time: The Interplay of Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors


Time pervades every aspect of people's lives. We are all affected by remnants of our pasts, assessments of our presents, and forecasts of our futures. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors over time inexorably intertwine and intermingle, determining varied reactions such as affect and emotions, as well as future behaviors. The purpose of this volume is to bring together the diverse theory and research of an outstanding group of scholars whose work relates to peoples judgements over time. To date, much theory and research on temporal variables within psychology has remained somewhat fragmented, isolated, and even provincial--researchers in particular domains are either unaware of or are paying little attention to each other's work. Integrating the theory and research into a single volume will bring about a greater awareness and appreciation of conceptual relations between seemingly disparate topics, define and promote the state of scientific knowledge in these areas, and set the agenda for future work. The volume presents the two main ways of looking at judgments over time: looking at how people's thoughts about the future and the past affect their present states, and looking at the interplay over time among people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


“How do you feel?”
“How do I feel,” he repeated, and scratched his head. “I cannot say I feel ill.
But I cannot say I feel well. I cannot say I feel anything at all….”
“You feel alive though?”
“‘Feel alive’ …Not really. I haven’t felt alive for a very long time.”

Oliver Sacks

This gem of a book addresses the ways in which thinking about the past and the future profoundly shapes our sense of self and, indirectly, our behavior. Having edited two books on “choice over time,” I opened Judgments over Time expecting to read about decisions that involve time, such as dieting, saving, or getting an education. I was surprised. Judgment, as I should have known, is not the same as choice. It occurs in the mind, though it may move the body. The chapters in this book provide an amazingly comprehensive overview of the internal processes of assessment and evaluation that hum along internally as we live in the external world. As novelists have long understood, human beings inhabit two parallel worlds—a “material world” of decisions and an internal world of evaluation that is infused with the past and alert to the future. An amnesic with no memories of whole decades, as Oliver Sacks discovered, not only lacked a past but also a future and, without past and future, did not feel alive.

In my home discipline—economics—the life of the mind is seen as subservient to, and derivative of, the material world; economics adheres to the instrumentalist assumption that the purpose of thinking is to inform choice. Economists posit that human beings try to foretell the shape of the future (e.g., how wealthy will I be?) to make better decisions, such as about how much to work or play and how much to save or spend. They recall the past mainly to predict the future. If one has suffered long bouts of unemployment, for example . . .

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