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How does future thinking work? Uncovering its evolutionary and developmental origins


Time is always moving forward. However, humans can remember past events (e.g., our last holiday), and imagine and plan for events that have not happened (e.g., our next job interview); that is, we can mentally travel back into our past (i.e., episodic memory) and our future (i.e., future thinking). Having a comprehensive picture of this capacity involves not only studying Mental Time Travel (MTT) in humans but also in non-human animals. Due to conceptual and methodological
limitations, the field of MTT is still in its infancy. Comparative and interdisciplinary studies—involving more than one animal species— are needed to understand the evolution and development of this capacity. I aim to address this issue by developing two novel empirical approaches to test how non-human primates (chimpanzees), corvids (rooks) and human children use information about past events to think and imagine future events. The results of this research will provide crucial insights for theories of cognitive development (e.g., the relation between theory of mind, executive functioning and mental time travel) and human evolution (e.g., the role of mental time travel in humanity’s ability to build upon knowledge or skills generation after generation). In this sense, broadening my theoretical background and acquiring new methodological skills (e.g., testing new animal species)—as I plan to do during this fellowship—will be of crucial importance for me to further develop my career.

Field of science

  • /social sciences/political science/political policy/public policy
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/zoology/mammalogy/primatology

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Kings Gate
NE1 7RU Newcastle Upon Tyne
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 183 454,80