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Seeing the FutureTheoretical Perspectives on Future-Oriented Mental Time Travel$
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Kourken Michaelian, Stanley B. Klein, and Karl K. Szpunar

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190241537

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190241537.001.0001

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The Future of Memory, Mental Time Travel, and Mind Wandering

The Future of Memory, Mental Time Travel, and Mind Wandering

Chapter:
(p.328) 16 The Future of Memory, Mental Time Travel, and Mind Wandering
Source:
Seeing the Future
Author(s):

Michael C. Corballis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190241537.003.0016

In the hierarchy of memory systems, episodic memory is the most flexible, allowing individuals not only to mentally reconstruct past events but also imagine new ones. These new scenarios allow individuals’ minds to wander, not only into possible futures, but also into the minds of others. Mental wandering, then, is as much the basis of fiction as of recollection and future planning. Although some have claimed mental time travel to be uniquely human, the ability to mentally escape the present probably exists in other animals, including some birds and mammals, and may even go far back in the evolution of species that move freely in the world. What does appear to be distinctive to humans is the ability to share their mental journeys, through the invention of language and the telling of stories.

Keywords:   episodic memory, evolution, future, language, mental time travel, mind wandering

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