A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

Conferences & Retreats

The Prospective Psychology Stage 2 grant includes a series of retreats, bringing the most promising young scholars in this interdisciplinary domain together with senior scholars. The Stage 2 conferences aim to give Science of Prospection Award recipients and finalists an opportunity to discuss their research projects and receive feedback, bring together emerging scholars with senior scholars, to galvanize scholarly interest in prospection science, to foster research collaborations, and to strategize about the future of Prospective Psychology.

John Templeton Foundation Science of Prospection Awards Finalist Symposium

Inn at Penn, Philadelphia, PA, August 4-5, 2014

The John Templeton Foundation Science of Prospection Awards Finalist Symposium was held in Philadelphia August 4-5, 2014.  Martin Seligman welcomed the finalists and gave introductory remarks including the larger purpose of uniting researchers across disciplines to push together towards a deeper understanding of prospection.  Applicants were then introduced and Steering Committee Chair Thalia Wheatley explained the process by which they had been vetted thus far and how the Steering Committee would be evaluating the proposals during the retreat.

Across two days, 22 applicants presented their individual or teams’ proposals to the steering committee.  The proposed projects represented 25 universities across four countries and all applicants had been selected through a prior, two-round review process by the Steering Committee.  Each presentation was allowed 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of Q&A by Steering Committee members and other finalists.  Each Steering Committee member independently evaluated each presentation for scientific merit as well as applicants’ leadership potential and ability to disseminate findings to a wide audience. The proposals covered a broad range of topics within prospection from its development in early life to its relationship with altruism and cooperation. Proposal breadth was also apparent in the use of different methodologies employed to measure and identify the neural and psychological mechanisms that predict and promote future thinking.

After the first full day, applicants and the steering committee mingled and ate dinner together at a local restaurant. At the end of the second day, Martin Seligman and Thalia Wheatley gave final remarks about emergent themes, the breadth and caliber of the group and the promise of prospection research.  Following final remarks, the steering committee met to compile and discuss their scores until a consensus slate was agreed upon. 

See a copy of the program here.

John Templeton Foundation Science of Prospection Awards Mid-Course Retreat

Union League of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, August 8-10, 2015

The John Templeton Foundation Science of Prospection Awards Mid-Course Retreat was held in Philadelphia August 8-10, 2015.   The retreat kicked off with a dinner at the Union League of Philadelphia during which each member of the Steering Committee gave a short speech about their own research on Prospection and offered their own views about some of the major open questions in this fertile area of research. Roy Baumeister opened with findings from his own lab showing that people spend much of their time thinking about the future and that this prospective mode of thought predicts well-being.  He advocated for future research on the relationship between prospection and health. Randy Buckner and Thalia Wheatley provided findings from their neuroscience labs, recommending that future research consider individual differences (Buckner) and how the brain considers time as a kind of space (Wheatley). Chandra Sripada and Jonathan Schooler discussed their research relating prospection to mental exploration and called for more research on how aging might change how we prospect.

Over the next two days, each Science of Prospection awardee gave a presentation about the progress made by their research group.  Already deep into the data collection phase of their grants, most groups presented preliminary findings.  These findings ranged from evidence for proto-prospective abilities in other species to how prospection in children and adults predicts empathy and real-world altruistic behaviors.  The talks also highlighted the diversity of methods used by the groups (e.g., developmental studies, clinical paradigms, imaging of neural circuits, massive linguistic analysis, and online experience sampling).  As evidenced by these talks, the breadth and depth of this research is already realizing a deeper understanding of how prospection works and how it can benefit society.

At dinner on the second day, Steering Committee member Jonathan Schooler (University of California, Santa Barbara) gave a keynote address entitled “Stepping into the future: Speculations on the Subjective Dimension of Time.”  In this address he postulated that conscious experience may comprise a new dimension of time (“subjective time”) that can advance at different rates.  This was followed by an animated discussion with the awardees and Steering Committee about whether and how consciousness could influence the perception (and progression) of time.

After the talks on each day, awardees gathered with the steering committee for a “fireside chat.” These chats served as an informal venue to discuss thoughts about prospection that arose organically from listening to the talks. To begin, Martin Seligman and Thalia Wheatley posed questions such as how to define prospection and how different levels of analysis can be bridged to form a unified understanding. Much of the debate was spirited with awardees alternately disagreeing (e.g., what “counts” as prospection) and working to find points of consensus.  On the second day, the fireside chat included a reflection on common themes that emerged across the talks including whether there are different ways of thinking about different time horizons and the role of stress. Lively and productive, these chats harnessed the collective intelligence of leading prospective psychology researchers as they grappled with important and definitional issues of this young field.  Martin Seligman ended the last day with a discussion about awardee’s goals for discussions at the next retreat and potential future opportunities.

See a copy of the program here.