Mental time travel and the shaping of the human mind

  title={Mental time travel and the shaping of the human mind},
  author={Thomas Suddendorf and Donna Rose Addis and Michael C. Corballis},
  journal={Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences},
  pages={1317 - 1324}
Episodic memory, enabling conscious recollection of past episodes, can be distinguished from semantic memory, which stores enduring facts about the world. Episodic memory shares a core neural network with the simulation of future episodes, enabling mental time travel into both the past and the future. The notion that there might be something distinctly human about mental time travel has provoked ingenious attempts to demonstrate episodic memory or future simulation in non-human animals, but we… 
How do episodic and semantic memory contribute to episodic foresight in young children?
This work draws on Tulving’s definition of episodic and semantic memory to provide a critical analysis of their role in episodic foresight tasks described in the developmental literature and suggests future directions of research that could further the understanding of how both episodic memory and semanticMemory are intimately connected to episodicForesight.
Episodic memory versus episodic foresight: Similarities and differences.
  • T. Suddendorf
  • Psychology
    Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Cognitive science
  • 2010
The reviewed evidence suggests that mental time travel is based on a complex system selected not for accuracy about past and future per se, but for fitness benefits.
Situating mental time travel in the broad context of temporal cognition: A neural systems approach
Mental time travel (MTT) is the ability of remembering personal past events or thinking about possible personal future happenings. This mental property is possible due to our capacity to be aware of
[What about the mental time travel and age-related effects?].
It is proposed that the study of mental travel in personal time could be undertaken in line with the distinction between the memory of (episodic) experiences and (semantic) personal knowledge of one's life, which constitutes a major part of the self and constraints what the authors have been, what they are now, and what they might yet become.
Time Is Not of the Essence Understanding the Neural Correlates of Mental Time Travel
  • Psychology
  • 2016
The precise relationship between memory and imagination has been a matter of debate for centuries (e.g., Aristotle [Barnes, 1984]; Hobbes, 1668; Hume, 1739; Russell, 1921). But at no time has this
A Neuroeconomic Theory of Mental Time Travel
The theory demonstrates that the memory-based process is useful when the environment features novel experiences that are likely to be relevant in future decision-making, hence worth remembering accurately, and optimal in environments that either do not change significantly, or have a small chance of being repeated in the future.
The complex act of projecting oneself into the future.
  • S. Klein
  • Psychology
    Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Cognitive science
  • 2013
It is argued that a person lacking episodic memory should nonetheless be able to imagine a personal future by virtue of the fact that semantic, as well as episodic, memory can be self-referential.
Memory, Time and Language: A Mental Time Travel Model in a Narrative Discourse
  • Psychology
  • 2020
In this thesis, the cognitive implications following the emergence of a memory system capable of locating events in time are discussed. With this evolution individuals have been able to mentally
Hippocampal Contribution to Ordinal Psychological Time in the Human Brain
A source reconstruction method accounting explicitly for the hippocampusal volume is used to characterize the involvement of deep structures belonging to the hippocampal formation (bilateral hippocampi [hippocampi proper], entorhinal cortices, and parahippocampal cortex) and finds selective involvement of the medial temporal lobes (MTLs) with a notable lateralization of the main effects.
The development of mental scenario building and episodic foresight
It is found that, although there are diverse developmental trajectories, by 4 years of age children have acquired the basic cognitive components required to mentally construct specific future events.


Mental time travel and the evolution of the human mind.
It is argued that the human ability to travel mentally in time constitutes a discontinuity between ourselves and other animals and allows a more rapid and flexible adaptation to complex, changing environments than is afforded by instincts or conventional learning.
Mental time travel in animals: A challenging question
The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans?
It is submitted that mental time travel is not an encapsulated cognitive system, but instead comprises several subsidiary mechanisms that allow prediction of future situations and should be considered in addition to direct evidence of future-directed action.
Episodic memory: from mind to brain.
  • E. Tulving
  • Psychology, Biology
    Annual review of psychology
  • 2002
This chapter provides a brief history of the concept of episodic memory, describes how it has changed (indeed greatly changed) since its inception, considers criticisms of it, and discusses supporting evidence provided by neuropsychological studies of patterns of memory impairment caused by brain damage, and functional neuroimaging studies of pattern of brain activity of normal subjects engaged in various memory tasks.
Self-projection and the brain
Can animals recall the past and plan for the future?
Experiments on memory in food-caching birds show that western scrub-jays form integrated, flexible, trial-unique memories of what they hid, where and when, and suggest that some animals have elements of both episodic-like memory and future planning.
The construction system of the brain
  • D. HassabisE. Maguire
  • Psychology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2009
The ability to construct a hypothetical situation in one's imagination prior to it actually occurring may afford greater accuracy in predicting its eventual outcome. The recollection of past
Memory and Temporal Experience: the Effects of Episodic Memory Loss on an Amnesic Patient's Ability to Remember the Past and Imagine the Future
Abstract This article examines the effects of memory loss on a patient's ability to remember the past and imagine the future. We present the case of D.B., who, as a result of hypoxic brain damage,