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Sharon Basaraba

Meet Your Future Self, Try Harder Today

By December 8, 2011

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Age Progression Photos

(Aging progression photos of young woman to age 72, without smoking and with smoking.  Courtesy Sarah C Grogan)

If you could magically transport yourself to say, the year 2045, would you give yourself a high five, or offer an apology?  Like the old joke "if I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself" laments, it's tough to understand exactly how today's behavior will play out in the future.

That may change, thanks to some enterprising researchers who are using aged photos and virtual reality to make the future more of a, well, reality.  A new study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that young women shown photos of what they'd look like after years of smoking were shocked enough to butt out.  It seems the health promotion messages against tobacco use just didn't resonate like cold hard evidence of wrinkles and sagging skin.  Reactions of anxiety and nausea were common. (Welcome to getting older!)

Looking at photos of yourself as an older person might help you save money, too, according to Hal Hershfield and his colleagues at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University.  An assistant professor of Marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business, Hershfield found young people were more motivated to save for retirement when they saw older versions of themselves in a virtual world.  In research published this month, he reports that subjects put twice as much in a hypothetical savings account when they used the virtual aging machine.  He credits developing greater empathy with who you'll become in the future for the results.

Want to give it a try?  Click here to find software on your computer or for your smartphone to age your photo, and see if you're more motivated today to eat right, exercise, or even save some money.  Let me know what you find!


Hal E. Hershfield, Daniel G. Goldstein, William F. Sharpe, Jesse Fox, Leo Yeykelis, Laura L. Carstensen, and Jeremy N. Bailenson. "Increasing Saving Behavior Through Age-Progressed Renderings of the Future Self".  Journal of Marketing Research. November 2011, Vol.48, No.SPL:pp.S23-S37

Sarah Grogan, Keira Flett, David Clark-Carter, Brendan Gough, Rachel Davey, Deborah Richardson and Giri Rajaratnam. "Women smokers' experiences of an age-appearance anti-smoking intervention: A qualitative study."  British Journal of Health Psychology Volume 16, Issue 4, pages 675-689, November 2011.

December 19, 2011 at 10:02 am
(1) Florence Sun says:

IF I’d known I would LIVE to be 90 I certainly would NOT have taken the ADVICE of Retirement INVESTMENT Advisers who HELPED ME to LOSE my Retirement Savings by investing!!!

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