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Do You Look to the Future or Focus on Today? The Impact of Life Experience on Intertemporal Decisions

  • Author(s): Liu, Wendy
  • Aaker, Jennifer
  • et al.
Abstract

In this research, we investigate the impact of significant life experiences on intertemporal decisions among young adults. A series of experiments focus specifically on the impact of experiencing the death of a close other by cancer. We show that such an experience, which bears information about time, is associated with making decisions that favor the long-term future over short-term interests (Studies 1 and 2). Underlying this effect appears to be increased salience and concreteness regarding one’s future life course, shifting focus away from the present toward the long run (Studies 3 and 4). Finally, we explore the shift caused by a cancer death of a public figure and examine its stability over time (Study 5). Implications for research on intertemporal decision making and the impact of life events on perceptions and preferences are discussed.

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