Vividness of Future Self Predicts Delinquency

As a follow-up to the study I posted about last week, there was an interesting study recently published called “Vividness of the Future Self Predicts Delinquency.”  As noted last week, there is a great deal of research that shows that younger persons are more likely to engage in risky and unethical behavior than older persons.  There are many reasons for this but one of the strongest individual-level correlates of delinquency is the failure to think through the delayed consequences of behavior as opposed to “living in the moment.”

This study looked at two options for influencing participants towards more ethical behavior.  In one study, the participants were instructed to write a letter to their “future self.”  In the second study, the participants interacted with a realistic digital version of their future, aged-progressed selves in a virtual environment.  In both studies, participants were less likely to engage in unethical behavior or make delinquent choices.  In fact, in the second study, participants who gazed at their 40-year-old selves in virtual mirrors were 74% less likely to cheat for extra cash on a subsequent trivia test.

What implications might this have for you and your organization when it comes to how you induct and train your employees, especially your younger employees?

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