The forest and the trees: Cognitive processes of making decisions for the future

Date of Completion

January 2008


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Experimental|Psychology, Cognitive




Three experiments examined the cognitive processes of planning for the future to resolve a paradox between person- and situation-centered theories of goal attainment. Experiment One found that priming thoughts about the future and higher Consideration of Future Consequences led to greater information seeking, suggesting that temporal focus can be manipulated. Experiment Two found that linking small tasks to an abstract goal increased performance on those tasks and hastened lexical decision responses, but did not differentially increase cognitive accessibility of the goal. Experiment Three found that Fruit/Vegetable consumption increased when it was linked to short-term outcomes for participants recruited from a work site and when it was linked to long-term outcomes for participants recruited from a university. These findings have implications for how long-term goals should be presented to achieve optimal outcomes. ^