Similarities in Episodic Future Thought and Remembering: The Importance of Contextual Setting

Kathleen B. McDermott, Karl K. Szpunar, Kathleen M. Arnold

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This chapter takes a novel approach and presents a personal story of how ideas formed about episodic future thought evolved over time and how personal ideas regarding this topic have come to fit in with the larger picture that has developed around this rapidly emerging line of research. The organization of the chapter is as follows. First, it considers the theoretical motivation behind the study of episodic future thought. It next considers initial attempts to identify neural correlates of episodic future thought and how they compare to those underlying retrieval of episodes from one's past. After considering some of the initial results, which demonstrate a high level of similarity in the neural substrates of autobiographical remembering and episodic future thinking, it discusses a few early theoretical accounts of this state of affairs. Most accounts center on the basic conclusion that episodic future thought is accomplished by drawing upon memory and recombining elements of these memories into novel (future-oriented) scenarios. The chapter then considers some recent behavioral research that grew out of this conceptualization. Finally, it discusses a neuroimaging study designed to test directly the hypothesis that memory for previously experienced contextual settings (e.g., places) is an important component in understanding the similarities between remembering and episodic future thought.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPredictions in the Brain
Subtitle of host publicationUsing Our Past to Generate a Future
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199897230
ISBN (Print)9780195395518
StatePublished - Sep 22 2011


  • Autobiographical remembering
  • Episodic future thought
  • Memory
  • Neural correlations
  • Scenarios


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