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The association between past and future oriented thinking: Evidence from autism spectrum disorder

Lind, S. E. & Williams, D. M. (2012). The association between past and future oriented thinking: Evidence from autism spectrum disorder. Learning and Motivation, 43(4), pp. 231-240. doi: 10.1016/j.lmot.2012.05.004


A number of recently developed theories (e.g., the constructive episodic simulation, self-projection, and scene construction hypotheses) propose that the ability to simulate possible future events (sometimes referred to as episodic future thinking, prospection, or foresight) depends on the same neurocognitive system that is implicated in the recall of past events (episodic memory). In this paper, we argue that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) offers an ideal test of such theories, given that it is a developmental disorder that is characterized by impairments in episodic memory. Each of these theories would predict concomitant impairments in episodic future thinking among individuals with ASD. We review evidence concerning episodic future thinking in ASD, as well as studies of prospective memory (remembering to do something in the future), planning, navigation, and theory of mind, which some theories suggest also rely on the same mechanism as episodic future thinking.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Learning and Motivation. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Learning and Motivation, Volume 43, Issue 4, November 2012, Pages 231–240,
Publisher Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, episodic memory, episodic future thinking, mental time travel, planning, prospective memory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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