Past-future preferences for hedonic goods and the utility of experiential memories

Ruth Lee*, Jack Shardlow, Patrick A. O'Connor, Lesley Hotson, Rebecca Hotson, Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies have suggested that while both adults and children hold past-future hedonic preferences – preferring painful experiences to be in the past and pleasurable experiences to lie in the future – these preferences are abandoned when the quantity of pain or pleasure under consideration is greater in the past than in the future. We examined whether such preferences might be affected by the utility people assign to experiential memories, since the recollection of events can itself be pleasurable or aversive, and we examined the developmental trajectory of the value that people assign to experiential memories of past painful experiences. Using a task in which we manipulated hypothetical memory loss in a series of brief vignettes, we found that for some adults, but not for children, the disutility attached to the recollection of painful past events outweighed the disutility of living through future painful events. Between middle childhood and adulthood, experiential memory appears to assume a more important role in determining the value that people assign to past experiences and in mitigating bias towards the future.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Early online date27 Feb 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 27 Feb 2022


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