Most experimental studies of prospection focused on episodic forms of future events prompted by means of verbal cues. However, there is evidence suggesting that future events differ considerably according to whether they are produced in response to external, experimenter-provided verbal cues or they are self-generated. In the present study, we compared the quality, the phenomenal characteristics, the temporal distribution and the content of imagined events prompted by experimenter-provided cues (i.e., cue-words and short verbal sentences) or elicited by means of verbal cues that were self-generated in an Autobiographical Fluency Task. The results showed that future events prompted by means of self-generated cues contained less event-specific details as compared to future events prompted by experimenter-provided cues. However, future events elicited by means of self-generated and by experimenter-provided cues did not differ with respect to their phenomenal characteristics. The temporal distribution and the thematic content of future representations were also affected by the type of cue used to elicit prospection. These results offer a holistic view of the properties of future thinking and suggest that the content and the characteristics of envisioned future events may be affected by the method used to elicit prospection.
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