400 pages, 2 illustrations
Our species is misnamed. Though sapiens defines human beings as "wise" what humans do especially well is to prospect the future. We are Homo prospectus. In Homo Prospectus, Martin E. P. Seligman, Peter Railton, Roy F. Baumeister, and Chandra Sripada argue it is anticipating and evaluating future possibilities for the guidance of thought and action that is the cornerstone of human success.
Much of the history of psychology has been dominated by a framework in which people's behavior is driven by past history (memory) and present circumstances (perception and motivation). Homo Prospectus reassesses this idea, pushing focus to the future front and center and opening discussion of a new field of Psychology and Neuroscience.
The authors delve into four modes in which prospection operates: the implicit mind, deliberate thought, mind-wandering, and collective (social) imagination. They then explore prospection's role in some of life's most enduring questions: Why do people think about the future? Do we have free will? What is the nature of intuition, and how might it function in ethics? How does emotion function in human psychology? Is there a common causal process in different psychopathologies? Does our creativity change with age?
In this remarkable convergence of research in philosophy, statistics, decision theory, psychology, and neuroscience, Homo Prospectus shows how human prospection fundamentally reshapes our understanding of key cognitive processes, thereby improving individual and social functioning. It aims to galvanize interest in this new science from scholars in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, as well as an educated public curious about what makes humanity what it is.
"An important insight about how the mind works, presented with a slew of fascinating discoveries and a refreshingly interdisciplinary approach."
– Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, and author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works
"Homo Prospectus is a groundbreaking book that capitalizes on 21st-century fMRI studies and user-friendly philosophy to create a paradigm shift that may make the book the most influential psychological text since Skinner's Science and Human Behavior. The concept of prospection developed in Homo Prospectus, of being drawn by the future, instead of-as both Freud and Skinner would have it-being driven by the past, reflects a true paradigm shift not only for academics and clinicians, but for the general reader."
– George E. Vaillant, MD, Author of Triumphs of Experience
"One of the greatest satisfactions in the life of the mind is learning something that feels deeply true, even familiar, that we never actually thought before, when a book articulates intuitions that we never quite knew we had. Homo Prospectus does just this [...] The authors are eminent philosophers and psychologists who write beautifully. The book convincingly demonstrates that fast intuitive thinking is in fact comprehensive, complex, and well-informed, and applies this insight to domains ranging from morality to successful aging."
– Phoebe Ellsworth, PhD, Frank Murphy Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Law, University of Michigan Law School
"One of the most interesting chapters in the book is on Creativity and Aging with guest appearances by Marie Forgeard and Scott Barry Kaufman [...] this chapter points to the evolutionary benefits of creativity throughout our lifespan, establishing economic security and driving innovation to create a better life for our offspring. The human race has advanced by our ability to hand down innovations from one generation to the next, based on our imagined prospection of their future needs."
– Jeremy McCarthy, The Psychology of Wellbeing
Part I: Homo Prospectus
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Intuitive Guidance: Emotion, Information, and Experience
Chapter Three: Deliberative Guidance: Intuitive Guidance in the Counterfactual Mode
Chapter Four: Imaginative Guidance: A Mind Forever Wandering
Chapter Five: Collective Prospection: The Social Construction of the Future
Part II: Prospection and Life's Enduring Questions
Chapter Six: Pragmatic Prospection
Chapter Seven: Free Will and the Construction of Options
Chapter Eight: Emotions: How the Future Feels (and Could Feel)
Chapter Nine: Morality and Prospection
Chapter Ten: Prospection Gone Awry: Depression
Chapter Eleven: Creativity and Aging: What we can Make with what we Have Left
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Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD, Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center, Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the Penn Department of Psychology, and Director of the Penn Master of Applied Positive Psychology program (MAPP). Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He has written more than 275 scholarly publications and 25 books, including Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (2011) and co-authored Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (Oxford University Press 2004).
Peter Railton, PhD, is Gregory S. Kavka Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Railton has worked in the philosophy of science, ethics, metaethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. He has also taught at Berkeley and Princeton and been affiliated with various research centers in the US and Europe.
Roy F. Baumeister, PhD, is Frances Eppes Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. Baumeister's research spans self and identity, self-regulation, interpersonal rejection and the need to belong, sexuality and gender, aggression, self-esteem, meaning, and self-presentation. He has written over 500 publications and 31 books, including Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (2011) and The Cultural Animal: Human Nature, Meaning, and Social Life (Oxford University Press 2005).
Chandra Sripada, MD, PhD, is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Sripada studies brain mechanisms of decision-making, prospection, and self-control, and tries to understand how emerging results from the sciences impact our picture of ourselves as free and rational agents.