Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


Don't stop thinking about tomorrow: Individual differences in future self-continuity account for saving

Journal Article

Ersner-Hershfield H
Garton MT
Ballard K
Samanez-Larkin GR
Knutson B

Published by
Judgm Decis Mak, Vol. 4 no. 4, page(s) 280-286
June 2009


Some people find it more difficult to delay rewards than others. In three experiments, we tested a "future self-continuity" hypothesis that individual differences in the perception of one's present self as continuous with a future self would be associated with measures of saving in the laboratory and everyday life. Higher future self-continuity (assessed by a novel index) predicted reduced discounting of future rewards in a laboratory task, more matches in adjectival descriptions of present and future selves, and greater lifetime accumulation of financial assets (even after controlling for age and education). In addition to demonstrating the reliability and validity of the future self-continuity index, these findings are consistent with the notion that increased future self-continuity might promote saving for the future.