The development of asymmetries in past and future thinking

Patrick Burns, Teresa McCormack, Agnieszka Jaroslawska, Aine Fitzpatrick, Jemma McGourty, Eugene Caruso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)
650 Downloads (Pure)


A number of striking temporal asymmetries have been observed in the way that adults think about the past and the future: experiences in the future tend to be more valued than those in the past, feel closer in subjective time, and elicit stronger emotions. Three studies explored the development of these temporal asymmetries for the first time with children and adolescents. Evidence of past/future asymmetry in subjective time emerged from 4-to-5-years of age. Evidence of past/future asymmetry in emotion was clearly observable from 6-to-7-years of age. Evidence of past/future asymmetry in value emerged latest in development and was uncorrelated with judgments of emotion and subjective distance at all ages. We consider the underlying causes of these asymmetries, and discuss the potential relations among them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-288
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2019


  • Emotion
  • Future
  • Past
  • Temporal asymmetries
  • Time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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  • Student Theses

    Exploring the views of adolescent boys in school about how they cope with their worries or concerns

    Author: Fitzpatrick, A., Dec 2020

    Supervisor: Jaroslawska, A. (Supervisor) & McAleese, M. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

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