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Prospective Psychology

What is Prospection?

Prospection refers broadly to the mental representation and evaluation of possible futures, including such functions as planning, prediction, and daydreaming. This ability fundamentally shapes human cognition, emotion, and motivation, and yet remains an understudied field of research. For the past several decades, social science has concentrated on how the past determines the present and the future; the interlocked Prospective Psychology grants seek to change this precedent by moving prospection to the center of research on human action—how does thinking about the future shape present and future behavior?

Prospective Psychology Stage 1: Imagination and Being Drawn into the Future (September 2012 – September 2015)

With this generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, investigators are writing the theoretical book and journal articles that will establish the foundation of Prospective Psychology. Additionally, Stage 1 includes three small conferences for breeding interest in the field, the hiring of postdoctoral fellows, and empirical psychological and neuroscientific research. This initiative is led by Martin E.P. Seligman (Principal Investigator, University of Pennsylvania), Roy Baumeister (Florida State University), Chandra Sripada (University of Michigan), and Peter Railton (University of Michigan).

For more information, read Seligman, Railton, Baumeister, and Sripada's (2013) foundational paper, "Navigating into the Future or Driven by the Past” in Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(2), 119-141.

Prospective Psychology Stage 2: Imagination and Being Drawn into the Future—A Research Competition (September 2013 – September 2016)

Prospective Psychology Stage 2 is an international research competition awarding up to fifteen research awards averaging $150,000 each, funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. These awards that will fund 22- to 24-month projects aimed at advancing the field of Prospection. The initiative is particularly interested in five key domains of prospection research:  Measurement, Mechanisms, Application, Improvement, and Open. Senior scholars on this project include Martin E.P. Seligman (Principal Investigator), Roy Baumeister, Randy Buckner (Harvard University), Laurie Santos (Yale University), Jonathan Schooler (University of California Santa Barbara), Barry Schwartz (Swarthmore College), and Thalia Wheatley (Dartmouth College).

For more information about applying, please see Opportunities on this website, or navigate to