About the Grant

What is prospection?

Prospection refers broadly to the mental representation and evaluation of possible futures. This may include planning, prediction, hypothetical scenarios, teleological patterns, daydreaming, and evaluative assessment of possible future events.  This ability to represent possible futures fundamentally shapes human cognitive, affective, and motivational systems and yet remains an understudied field of research. Effects of prospection on current cognition, emotion, motivation, and behavior are also of interest.

Prospection is a ubiquitous feature of the human mind.  For the past several decades, social science has concentrated on the antecedents of human action: how the past determines the present and the future.  The present initiative seeks to catalyze a change in the course of social science by moving prospection to the center of research on human action.

The ability for prospective thought is a fundamental psychological faculty akin to other basic endowments such as language and reasoning.  Thus, prospective abilities – how much and how well a person is able to bring mental representations and evaluations of possible futures to bear on the selection of action – should be recognized as a basic explanatory variable in the psychological sciences. This initiative seeks to nurture the incipient science of prospection, and to ensure that gains in psychological and neuro-scientific knowledge about prospection will be applied in ways that improve individual and social functioning.

For more information, read Seligman, Railton, Baumeister, and Sripada's (2013) foundational paper, "Navigating into the Future or Driven by the Past," which can be found in Publications.

Prospective Psychology Stages 1 and 2

Prospective Psychology is a two-stage project established in 2012 by Professor Martin E.P. Seligman, Director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, with two generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation.

Stage 1, occurring from September 2012 to September 2015, establishes the foundation of this new field, including a book and several journal articles as well as pioneering research in the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy. This endeavor is led by Dr. Seligman, Dr. Roy Baumeister (Florida State University), Dr. Peter Railton (University of Michigan), and Dr. Chandra Sripada (University of Michigan).

Stage 2, occurring from September 2013 to September 2016, is a research competition for up to fifteen Templeton Science of Prospection Awards, funding 22.5-month projects with an average of $150,000. This initiative encourages all proposals that promise to advance the science of prospection.


Personnel

Principal Investigator

University of Pennsylvania














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