It's called temporal discounting, our tendency to think of our future self as if he or she is a stranger and go for immediate "me" rewards now.

5 Big Reasons Why Americans Don’t Save Their Money

Because You’re Kind of a Jerk to Your Future Self (Unless You Get to Know Him or Her)

Economic models predict that all of us, as rational agents, will arrive at some optimal ratio of savings to income during our earning years so we can maintain a comfortable level of consumption through retirement. But it just isn’t so. Real-life, flesh-and-blood humans engage in “temporal discounting”—we prize immediate gain more than future well-being. Neurological studies have even found that when we think about our future self, we might as well be thinking of a complete stranger. With these findings in mind, a team of scholars writing for the Journal of Marketing Research recently set out to find a way of helping people identify with their future selves. What they found: subjects who were shown images of themselves digitally morphed to look old set aside significantly more money for retirement. [emphasis mine]

Increasing Saving Behavior through Age-Progressed Renderings of the...(pdf), by Hal E. Hershfield, et al, 2011

To combat climate change denial, we should have a website where the participant puts in a headshot, their location, and selects a future decade. Then the site would return their age-morphed picture along with a description of how their part of the world will likely have changed due to business as usual climate destabilization.

Alternately, parents could put in a photo of a child, to get back an age morphed view of the adult he or she will become and a description of the circumstances he or she will likely face at that age.

Tags: temporal discounting

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