The Extended Psychological Present
The instant, "now", is privileged in most psychological theory as well as in ordinary language. It is commonly assumed that if past events are to affect current behavior, they must have endured as traces to be heeded, even retrieved, at the time of their effectiveness. Similarly actions in relation to future events are thought to require surrogate expectations present at the time of the action. But how wide is that instant? A millisecond? A few seconds? If the latter, then why not a few minutes, hours, or days? Purely physical consideration can expand as well as compact the apparent size of "the present." Early in my career, experiments on avoidance convinced me that temporal scale-and by implication, the width of the psychological present-concerns our interpretive assumptions more than fundamental characteristics of the phenomena we are attempting to understand. The temporal extension of psychological/behavioral process will be illustrated, then as a background issue in a variety of theoretical domains, including avoidance theory, theory of optimal foraging, behavioral economics, and attribution theory.