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There are two issues we worry about most: (a) What are the risks of emphasizing prospection? and (b) What is the role of negative selfconcept as opposed to negative view of the future in depression?
What Are the Risks of Emphasizing Prospection?
Prospection is generally adaptive for emotion regulation and problem-solving. But can it become too much of a good thing? Is it possible to be excessively future-minded and devote too little attention to the past and present? Could intense future-directedness lead people to miss out on enjoying the present moment, benefiting from reminiscence, or enjoying? We just don't know.
Similarly how much time do depressed people spend thinking about the past, present, and future—and how much they should spend? Some research hints that depressed people may be less future-oriented (e.g., Breier-Williford & Bramlett, 1995), but measurement is not yet adequate: Existing future-orientation scales include items tapping self-regulation, conscientiousness, optimism, and hope, and they also do not clearly differentiate between a positive future versus a negative future (Hirsch et al., 2006; Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). The newer big data techniques that we use—creating a lexicon of temporal orientation—and using Twitter and Facebook to validate it, holds real promise as the method for answering these questions.
What are the merits of present-focused and future-focused therapies? The concept of mindfulness (an accepting awareness of present experience) has become more popular, and there is a growing body of evidence to support its usefulness in (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2012). More research is needed to understand the benefits and risks of prospective techniques versus present-centered techniques and to investigate the possibility that present-centered therapies actually work by correcting faulty prospection (e.g., by helping people to disengage from catastrophic thoughts about the future).
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