Not my future? Core values and the neural representation of future events
Individuals with pronounced self-transcendence values have been shown to put greater weight on the long-term consequences of their actions when making decisions. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the neural mechanisms underlying the evaluation of events occurring several decades in the future as well as the role of core values in these processes. Thirty-six participants viewed a series of events, consisting of potential consequences of climate change, which could occur in the near future (around 2030), and thus would be experienced by the participants themselves, or in the far future (around 2080). We observed increased activation in anterior VMPFC (BA11), a region involved in encoding the personal significance of future events, when participants were envisioning far future events, demonstrating for the first time that the role of the VMPFC in future projection extends to the time scale of decades. Importantly, this activation increase was observed only in participants with pronounced self-transcendence values measured by self-report questionnaire, as shown by a statistically significant interaction of temporal distance and value structure. These findings suggest that future projection mechanisms are modulated by self-transcendence values to allow for a more extensive simulation of far future events. Consistent with this, these participants reported similar concern ratings for near and far future events, whereas participants with pronounced self-enhancement values were more concerned about near future events. Our findings provide a neural substrate for the tendency of individuals with pronounced self-transcendence values to consider the long-term consequences of their actions.
KeywordsCore values Future projection Temporal distance VMPFC
This work was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Research Foundation (grant number PYAPP1_160571) awarded to Tobias Brosch. The research is part of the activities of SCCER CREST, which is financially supported by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI).
- Bain, P. G., Milfont, T. L., Kashima, Y., Bilewicz, M., Doron, G., Garoarsdottir, R. B., . . . Saviolidis, N. M. (2016). Co-benefits of addressing climate change can motivate action around the world (vol 6, pg 154, 2016). Nature Climate Change, 6(5). doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/Nclimate2814
- Brosch, T., Coppin, G., Scherer, K. R., Schwartz, S., & Sander, D. (2011). Generating value(s): Psychological value hierarchies reflect context-dependent sensitivity of the reward system. Social Neuroscience, 6(2), 198-208. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17470919.2010.506754 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Brosch, T., & Sander, D. (2013). Neurocognitive mechanisms underlying value-based decision-making: from core values to economic value. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7. doi: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00398
- Brosch, T., & Sander, D. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of Value: Perspectives from Economics, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- de Groot, J. I. M., & Steg, L. (2008). Value orientations to explain beliefs related to environmental significant behavior - How to measure egoistic, altruistic, and biospheric value orientations. Environment and Behavior, 40(3), 330-354. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916506297831 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Fellows, L. K., & Farah, M. J. (2005). Dissociable elements of human foresight: a role for the ventromedial frontal lobes in framing the future, but not in discounting future rewards. Neuropsychologia, 43(8), 1214-1221. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2004.07.018 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Gifford, R., Scannell, L., Kormos, C., Smolova, L., Biel, A., Boncu, S., … Uzzell, D. (2009). Temporal pessimism and spatial optimism in environmental assessments: An 18-nation study. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29(1), 1-12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2008.06.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hare, T. A., Camerer, C. F., Knoepfle, D. T., & Rangel, A. (2010). Value Computations in Ventral Medial Prefrontal Cortex during Charitable Decision Making Incorporate Input from Regions Involved in Social Cognition. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(2), 583-590. doi: https://doi.org/10.1523/Jneurosci.4089-09.2010 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- IPCC. (2014). Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. Geneva, Switzerland: IPCC.Google Scholar
- Khachatryan, H., Joireman, J., & Casavant, K. (2013). Relating values and consideration of future and immediate consequences to consumer preference for biofuels: A three-dimensional social dilemma analysis. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 34, 97-108. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.01.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Moll, J., Zahn, R., & Oliveira-Souza, R. (2016). The neural underpinnings of moral values. In T. Brosch & D. Sander (Eds.), Handbook of Value (pp. 119-127). New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Schwartz, S. H. (1996). Value priorities and behavior: Applying a theory of integrated value systems. In C. Seligman, J. M. Olson, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), The Psychology of Values: The Ontario Symposium (Vol. 8, pp. 1-24). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar