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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02328

The functions of prospection – variations in health and disease

  • 1Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney, Australia
  • 2Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (ARC), Australia
  • 3Centre for Psychology and Evolution, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Australia

Much of human life revolves around anticipating and planning for the future. It has become increasingly clear that this capacity for prospective cognition is a core adaptive function of the mind. Here, we review the role of prospection in two key functional domains: goal-directed behaviour and flexible decision-making. We then survey and categorize variations in prospection, with a particular focus on functional impact in clinical psychological conditions and neurological disorders. Finally, we suggest avenues for future research into the functions of prospection and the manner in which these functions can shift towards maladaptive outcomes. In doing so, we will consider the conceptualisation and measurement of prospection, as well as novel approaches to its augmentation in healthy people and managing its alterations in a clinical context.

Keywords: prospection, episodic future thinking, Imagination, episodic foresight, decision-making, Hippocampus, Prefrontal Cortex, Alzheimer's disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, evolution

Received: 23 Aug 2018; Accepted: 06 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Patricia J. Brooks, College of Staten Island, United States

Reviewed by:

Mattie Tops, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Guido Schillaci, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Gail Robinson, The University of Queensland, Australia  

Copyright: © 2018 Irish and Bulley. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Muireann Irish, Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, muireann.irish@sydney.edu.au