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Collective Prospection: The Social Construction of the Future

Roy Baumeister

IN CHAPTER 2, WE EXAMINED HOW AN INDIVIDUAL PROSPECTS

the future by intuitive guidance, which is not conscious. In Chapters 3 and 4, we examined how an individual consciously imagines the future and uses mind-wandering to adjust behavior accordingly. But these omit a crucial dimension. Human beings are social animals, indeed social in a way that is unprecedented in nature. Human beings use culture to organize their social life. Thinking of prospection as a matter of a solitary individual imagining things forward in time is seriously deficient and perhaps slightly absurd. One only learns how to think about the future from other people. Moreover, the future itself is socially and culturally constructed. Most of the future, as it exists in the present and can be used by living things to organize their own actions and affairs, is created by others—indeed not just particular others but the culture in general. This chapter will flesh out the non-individual nature of the future.

 
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