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Title: The role of simulation in intertemporal choices
Author: O'Connell, Garret
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 4027
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2016
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One route to understanding the thoughts and feelings of others is by mentally putting one’s self in their shoes and seeing the world from their perspective, a way of empathising called simulation. Simulation is potentially used not only for inferring how others feel, but also for predicting how we ourselves will feel in the future. For instance, one might judge the worth of a future reward by simulating how much it will eventually be enjoyed. In intertemporal choices between immediate and delayed rewards, it is observed that as the length of delay increases, delayed rewards lose subjective value; a phenomenon known as temporal discounting. In this thesis, I propose that if similar simulation mechanisms are assumed to underlie predictions of the feelings of others and of future selves, then effects of simulation observed when simulating others can be extended to future selves. When this is done, a testable psychological account of temporal discounting based on simulation emerges. In four studies, I test the predictions of this account using various putative markers of simulation (e.g. self-reported trait empathy, eye-gaze responses in a perspective-taking task, psychophysiological markers of mimicry, and neural activity related to Theory of Mind). The results provide support for the relationship between abilities to predict the minds of others and preferences for delayed rewards, and warrant investing further efforts to validate the claims of the model. In addition to novel suggestions for how simulation could be conceptualised and measured, these findings have implications for the basic understanding of intertemporal decision-making.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available