The relationship between an orientation to the future and an orientation to the past: The role of future clarity

Simon A. Moss, Samuel G. Wilson, Melanie Irons, Carmen Naivalu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Some research shows that people who often contemplate their future tend to be healthier. Yet the burgeoning literature on mindfulness demonstrates that people who are more attuned to their immediate experiences also enjoy many benefits. To reconcile these principles, many scholars recommend that people should distribute their attention, somewhat evenly, across the past, present, and future-but have not clarified how people should achieve this goal. We test the possibility that people who perceive their future as vivid and certain, called future clarity, might be able to both orient their attention to the future as well as experience mindfulness. Specifically, future clarity could diminish the inclination of people to reach decisions prematurely and dismiss information that contradicts these decisions, called need for closure-tendencies that diminish consideration of future consequences and mindfulness, respectively. In this cross-sectional study, 194 participants completed measures of mindfulness, consideration of future consequences, need for closure, and future clarity. Consistent with hypotheses, future clarity was positively associated with both mindfulness and consideration of future consequences. Need for closure partly mediated these relationships. Accordingly, interventions that empower people to shape and to clarify their future might generate the benefits of both mindfulness and a future orientation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)608-616
    Number of pages9
    JournalStress and Health
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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