Present Versus Future

Some people naturally value the present.  These are generally seen as the free spenders of our society, those who spend money when they have it.  On the other hand, others place more emphasis on the future than what is currently occurring.  It is my goal to determine what is more likely, and why some people value the future more than the present.

It seems that those who value the future more than the present are those who reason more about their decisions.  One can see this quite often if he or she observes other people and their decisions.  Instead of letting their initial reactions, their System 1, make a choice, they pass the decision on the their System 2, where the true impact of their decisions is analyzed.  System 2 uses reason to assess the possible benefit or harm in selecting certain options.  But what causes people to use their System 1 or System 2 in these situations, and even if System 2 is used, why do all people not come to the same conclusion as to either enjoy something now or enjoy it in the future?

According to a 2009 study, the ability to care more for the future is innate, not learned.  This explains why certain people might have bad habits when it comes to spending too much money, as it is something difficult to stop (they live for the present, but fail to recognize that it means they will be without money in the near future).  On the other hand, many people are often too frugal when it comes to spending money, and grow old with more money than they need.  This shows that there are two ends of the spectrum: the person that gets all of the benefits from money as soon as possible and lives poorly the rest of his or her life, and the person who always saves, and never ends up enjoying himself or herself.

However, is it possible that life events can shape how people view the present versus the future?  Therefore, can it be learned to be better with your money, or to spend more of it?  The study shows how events spark different emotions that may change a person’s viewpoint.  This is interesting, as this could either be for the better or for the worse (because emotions are not necessarily always rational).  It is safe to say that cases of people putting more emphasis on the future are not all the same, as there are varying causes for them to do so.  They reason that they should based on their current circumstances, or, it is possible that they were always like that as they were born with that trait.  Different scenarios can always be explored, even if a uniform formula cannot be found for how people value the present versus the future.

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One comment

  1. […] future is both learned and innate, which combines the views of the two articles referenced in my previous blog post.  What is different depending on the person is the extent to which one is innately interested in […]

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