Article | Psychological Science

A 'Present' for the Future: The Unexpected Value of Rediscovery

by Ting Zhang, Tami Kim, Alison Wood Brooks, Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton


Although documenting everyday activities may seem trivial, four studies reveal that creating records of the present generates unexpected benefits by allowing future rediscoveries. In Study 1, we use a "time capsule" paradigm to show that individuals underestimate the extent to which rediscovering experiences from the past will be curiosity-provoking and interesting in the future. In Studies 2 and 3, we find that people are particularly likely to underestimate the pleasure of rediscovering ordinary, mundane experiences compared to rediscovering extraordinary experiences. Finally, Study 4 demonstrates that underestimating the pleasure of rediscovery leads to time-inconsistent choices: individuals forgo opportunities to document the present but then prefer to rediscover those moments in the future. Underestimating the value of rediscovery is linked to people's erroneous faith in their memory of everyday events. By documenting the present, people provide themselves with the opportunity to rediscover mundane moments that may otherwise have been forgotten.

Keywords: History; Information Management; Cognition and Thinking;


Zhang, Ting, Tami Kim, Alison Wood Brooks, Francesca Gino, and Michael I. Norton. "A 'Present' for the Future: The Unexpected Value of Rediscovery." Psychological Science (in press).