People to be born in the future have no direct influence on current affairs. Given the disconnect between people who are currently living and those who will inherit the planet left for them, individuals who are currently alive tend to be more oriented toward the present, posing a fundamental problem related to sustainability. In this study, we propose a new framework for reconciling the disconnect between the present and the future whereby some individuals in the current generation serve as an imaginary future generation that negotiates with individuals in the real-world present. Through a laboratory-controlled intergenerational sustainability dilemma game (ISDG), we show how the presence of negotiators for a future generation increases the benefits of future generations. More specifically, we found that when faced with members of an imaginary future generation, 60% of participants selected an option that promoted sustainability. In contrast, when the imaginary future generation was not salient, only 28% of participants chose the sustainable option.
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