Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Kathleen McDermott


The capacity to think about specific events that one might encounter in the future--episodic future thought--involves the flexible: re)organization of knowledge. However, little is known about the cognitive mechanisms that guide this process. The reported studies demonstrate evidence for the role of knowledge accessibility as one such mechanism. First, comparisons were drawn between episodic future thought and other cognitive tasks that similarly require participants to produce open-ended responses and for which the role of knowledge accessibility is well established. Second, three experiments: N = 270) provided direct tests of whether accessible knowledge becomes incorporated into episodic future thought. In Experiments 1 and 2, priming knowledge relevant to an upcoming episode generation task shaped the content of thoughts about the future. Experiment 3 revealed that, as with other open-ended production tasks, primed knowledge must be processed in a meaningful manner in order for it to exert an influence on the content of episodic future thought. These results further understanding of episodic future thought and suggest important avenues for future research.


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