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Description: Think about all that you know about how human memory and cognition work…. about how we think about and prepare for interacting within our world. Now, based on all that, on how we store memories, on how memories can become or be made unreliable, and on our cognitive biases answer this question: Are we ‘built’ to function in, or to focus mostly upon, the past, the present, or the future? Certainly ‘living in the moment’ is often suggested as a way to live life more fully but is that what we do when we are living our day to day lives (reflecting and learning about the world)?  The article linked below is co-authored by Martin Seligman, a psychologist who has, over his many years in psychology, provided us with many thoughtful, discipline changing, reflections on the nature of Psychology and on where it is or should be looking as we move into the future. Seligman was one of several psychologists influential in the development of the new sub-field or perspective on psychology called Positive Psychology. In this article he is, again, challenging us to examine our assumptions about basic human psychology. Have a read and see what he has to say.

Source: We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment, Martin Seligman and John Tierney, New York Times, Sunday Review.

Date: May 19, 2017

Photo Credit:  Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch, New York Times

Links:  Article Link —      

So what do you think? Does thinking about ourselves as ‘homo prospectus’ or forward looking change the way you think about parts of psychology? Certainly the idea that memories are not simply stored as on a hard drive but parsed by the hippocampus into portions having to do with what, when, and where the event being memorized happened provides new ways to think about the long-known observation that people’s memories can be changed or even created by how questions are asked in investigations or how a clinician digs into possible earlier life events when trying to help a troubled client. There is a LOT here to ponder and if you would like to do so there is a wealth of general articles with direct links below in the Read Further section to get you started. Think about it! You could be part of the reconfiguring the future of psychology!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does it mean to ‘live in the moment’?
  2. What is Martin Seligman suggesting that we as a species actually tend to do in terms of thinking and memory instead of ‘thinking in the moment’?
  3. What are some examples of the way we think about and approach memory and cognition in research that might need to be re-configured if Seligman’s perspective makes sense?

References (Read Further):

Osvath, M. (2009). Spontaneous planning for future stone throwing by a male chimpanzee. Current biology, 19(5), R190-R191.

Baumeister, Roy F. and Vohs, Kathleen D. (2016) The Science of Prospection, Special issue of the Review of General Psychology, 20(1).

Hassabis, D., Kumaran, D., Vann, S. D., & Maguire, E. A. (2007). Patients with hippocampal amnesia cannot imagine new experiences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(5), 1726-1731.

Busby, J., & Suddendorf, T. (2005). Recalling yesterday and predicting tomorrow. Cognitive Development, 20(3), 362-372.

Gaesser, B., Spreng, R. N., McLelland, V. C., Addis, D. R., & Schacter, D. L. (2013). Imagining the future: evidence for a hippocampal contribution to constructive processing. Hippocampus, 23(12), 1150-1161.

Schacter, D. L., & Addis, D. R. (2007). The cognitive neuroscience of constructive memory: remembering the past and imagining the future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 362(1481), 773-786.

Buckner, R. L. (2012). The serendipitous discovery of the brain’s default network. Neuroimage, 62(2), 1137-1145.