Utilizing Episodic Thinking and Temporal Framing to Enhance Future-Oriented Decision-Making in Social and Design Contexts

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0003-3101-1688
Hancock, Patrick, Civil Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Klotz, Leidy, EN-CEE, University of Virginia

This dissertation explored two behaviorally-informed methods for improving decision-making in sustainable engineering: temporal framing and episodic thinking. The first chapter focused on the use of future framing to reduce present bias and improve sustainability in decision-making. The study found that framing a decision scenario in terms of the future resulted in participants proposing significantly longer preliminary design concepts in terms of infrastructure design life, useful life to the community, and acceptable return on financial investment. The second chapter examined the effects of episodic future thinking or past thinking on social decision-making (i.e., local stormwater infrastructure funding) through measuring the impact on participant's delay discounting behavior. The study found that while there were no significant differences in social delay discounting, episodic future thinking enhanced emotional intensity towards the community-benefitting action, while past thinking improved temporal placement and the vividness of the recalled action. These findings suggest that both temporal framing and episodic thinking have the potential to improve sustainable decision-making and inform future research.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
applied behavioral design, sustainability, design, temporal framing, episodic thinking
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