Evidence for an implicit influence of memory on future thinking
The capacity to think about specific events that one might encounter in the future—episodic future thought— involves the flexible (re)organization of memory. The present study demonstrates that implicit processes play an important role here. In two experiments (N = 180), participants were asked to generate a personal event that they expected to plausibly occur in the following week. The content of the participants’ responses was biased (i.e., primed) by recent thoughts about a specific category of experiences. For instance, participants who had recently been induced to think about social experiences, in the context of an ostensibly unrelated task, were more likely than nonprimed participants to generate similar events occurring in their immediate future. Importantly, the participants were unaware of this unintentional influence of memory. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings for understanding episodic future thought and its relation to memory are discussed.