Some notes and speculations about various topics. ||| Gegenwärtig - vorübergehend -
wohl eher eine Gedankensammlung als ein Naturwissenschaftsblog. Das Konzept eines "Naturwissenschaftsblogs" wird erst im kommenden Jahr (2018/2019) Umsetzung finden.
Samstag, 16. Mai 2015
The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans?
In a dynamic world, mechanisms allowing prediction of future situations can provide
a selective advantage. We suggest that memory systems differ in the degree of flexibility they
offer for anticipatory behavior and put forward a corresponding taxonomy of prospection. The
adaptive advantage of any memory system can only lie in what it contributes for future survival.
The most flexible is episodic memory,which we suggest is part of a more general faculty of
mental time travel that allows us not only to go back in time but also to foresee, plan, and shape
virtually any specific future event. We review comparative studies and find that, in spite of
increased research in the area, there is as yet no convincing evidence for mental time travel in
nonhuman animals. We submit that mental time travel is not an encapsulated cognitive system,
but instead comprises several subsidiary mechanisms. A theater metaphor serves as an analogy
for the kind of mechanisms required for effective mental time travel. We propose that future
research should consider these mechanisms in addition to direct evidence of future-directed
action. We maintain that the emergence of mental time travel in evolution was a crucial step
toward our current success.