The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel and is it unique to humans?

Suddendorf, T. and Corballis, M. C. (2007) The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel and is it unique to humans?. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30 3: 299-313. doi:10.1017/S0140525X07001975

Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Suddendorf-04122006.pdf Suddendorf-04122006.pdf application/pdf 305.80KB 4101

Author Suddendorf, T.
Corballis, M. C.
Title The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel and is it unique to humans?
Journal name Behavioral and Brain Sciences   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1469-1825
Publication date 2007
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1017/S0140525X07001975
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 30
Issue 3
Start page 299
End page 313
Total pages 15
Place of publication Cambridge, UK; New York
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Language eng
Subject 380102 Learning, Memory, Cognition and Language
Abstract In a dynamic world, mechanisms allowing prediction of future situations can provide a selective advantage. We suggest that memory systems differ in the degree of flexibility they offer for anticipatory behavior and put forward a corresponding taxonomy of prospection. The adaptive advantage of any memory system can only lie in what it contributes for future survival. The most flexible is episodic memory, which we suggest is part of a more general faculty of mental time travel that allows us not only to go back in time, but also to foresee, plan, and shape virtually any specific future event. We review comparative studies and find that, in spite of increased research in the area, there is as yet no convincing evidence for mental time travel in nonhuman animals. We submit that mental time travel is not an encapsulated cognitive system, but instead comprises several subsidiary mechanisms. A theater metaphor serves as an analogy for the kind of mechanisms required for effective mental time travel. We propose that future research should consider these mechanisms in addition to direct evidence of future-directed action. We maintain that the emergence of mental time travel in evolution was a crucial step towards our current success.
Keyword animal cognition
cognitive evolution
comparative psychology
episodic memory
memory systems
mental time travel
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Citation: Thomas Suddendorf and Michael C. Corballis (2007) The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30 (3) : 299-313. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X07001975. Copyright 2007 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
School of Psychology Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 549 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 616 times in Scopus Article | Citations
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Tue, 22 Apr 2008, 13:00:06 EST by Thomas Suddendorf on behalf of School of Psychology