Hal Hershfield

Profile photo of Hal Hershfield
“My research asks, ‘How can we help move people from who they are now to who they’ll be in the future in a way that maximizes well-being?’”

Associate Professor of Marketing

Gold Hall, B-419




Psychologist Hal Hershfield studies how thinking about time transforms the emotions and alters the judgments and decisions people make. While he was a Ph.D. student at Stanford University, his research concentrated on the psychology of long-term decision-making and how time affects people’s lives — specifically at a moment when Americans are living longer and saving less.

Hershfield says, “We’re in an interesting time to be conducting research on these topics because there are so many methodological tools available. I take the same question and try to investigate it from different angles, whether from a psychological perspective or a marketing perspective or even more of a managerial perspective. ‘What are the psychological components of saving, and how can we help people along the process of their looming retirement?’ When it helps shed light on the question, I use methods like neuroimaging, eye tracking, archival and big data analyses, and even virtual reality.”

One of Hershfield’s most well known discoveries suggests that when people are confronted with their “future selves” they experience an emotional sense of connection that can influence long-term financial and ethical decision-making. Experiments in which some college students are shown images of their own faces digitally altered to appear 40 years older, while other students see only current, unaltered images of themselves, reveal that those who glimpse their digitally aged selves declare that they would save about 30 percent more, on average, than the students shown pictures of their current selves. “The lesson from that,” Hershfield says, “is that anything we can do that will increase how concrete and salient our future self is can help us make better decisions.”

He completed a post-doc at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University that was designed specifically for psychology Ph.D.s bound for professorships at business schools. Hershfield later taught undergraduates at NYU Stern, and is now assistant professor of marketing at UCLA Anderson. The b-school environment, he says, affords collaborations with larger firms as well as financial tech startups, and Hershfield is routinely approached by industry. He has been a consultant to Prudential Insurance Co.’s “Bring Your Challenges” campaign, American Greetings, Principal Financial Group, Morningstar and many others. Merrill Lynch has implemented his face-aging study in a marketing context to try to influence consumer behavior toward purchasing its products.

In the classroom, Hershfield says, “Whatever teaching I do has to be enjoyable for the students and for me.” Pop culture examples provide lessons that are effective because they resonate outside specialized frameworks. He has quoted Louis CK on comparing the banality of now to what can only be excitement to come, and Homer Simpson on the problems his future self will be saddled with.

When do we finally become our future selves? Hershfield says, “It all depends on how we think about thinking about the present. People who are able to step outside of the here-and-now in a meaningful way are better able to see how the past, the present and the future are connected. My worry, though, is that people might see this research and think they need to stop enjoying the present so this future self is taken care of. But, that’s not right. You don’t want to arrive in the future with absolutely no memories of anything good! To maximize well-being, we want consumers to focus on the future, but not sacrifice happiness and meaning now.”



B.A. Psychology, 2001, Tufts University

Ph.D. Psychology, 2009, Stanford University


Recent and Select Publications

Mogilner, C., Hershfield, H.E., & Aaker, J. (in press). Rethinking time: Implications for well-being. Consumer Psychology Review.

Hershfield, H.E. & Alter, A.L. (in press). Context matters: How macroeconomic forces may alter the reception of negative emotions in art. A commentary on Menninghaus, et al. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.   

 Madrian, B., Hershfield, H.E., Sussman, A.B., Bhargava, S., Huettel, S., Jamison, J., Johnson, E., Meier, S., Rick, S., & Shu, S. (2017). Policy applications of behavioral insights to household financial decision-making. Behavioral Science & Policy, 3, 27-40.    

Larsen, J.T., Hershfield, H.E., Stastny, B.J., & Hester, N. (2017). On the relationship between positive and negative affect: Their correlation and co-occurrence. Emotion17, 323-336.    

Goldstein, D.G., Hershfield, H.E., & Benartzi, S. (2016). The illusion of wealth and its reversal. Journal of Marketing Research, 53, 804-813.    

Hershfield, H.E*., Mogilner, C.*, & Barnea, U. (2016). People who choose time over money are happier. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7, 697-706.

Tully, S.M., Hershfield, H.E., & Meyvis, T. (2015). Seeking Lasting Enjoyment with Limited Money: Financial Constraints Increase Preference for Material Goods Over Experiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 42, 59-73.

Hershfield, H.E.*, Sussman, A.B.*, O’Brien, R.L., & Bryan, C.J. (2015). Leveraging psychological insights to encourage the responsible use of consumer debt. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 749-752..

Waytz, A., Hershfield, H.E., & Tamir, D.I. (2015). Mental simulation and meaning in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 336-355.

Alter, A.* & Hershfield, H.E.* (2014). People search for meaning when they approach a new decade in chronological age. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 17066-17070.

Hershfield, H.E., Bang, H.M., & Weber, E.U. (2014). National differences in environmental concern and performance predicted by country age. Psychological Science, 25, 152-160.

Van Gelder, J-L, Hershfield, H.E., & Nordgren, L.F. (2013). Vividness of the future self predicts delinquency. Psychological Science, 24(6), 974-980.

Hershfield, H.E., Scheibe, S., Sims, T., & Carstensen, L.L. (2013). When bad can be good: Mixed emotions benefit physical health outcomes across the life span. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(1), 54-61.

Bryan, C.J. & Hershfield, H.E. (2012). You owe it to yourself: Boosting retirement saving with a responsibility-based appeal. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 429-432.

Hershfield, H.E., Cohen, T., & Thompson, L. (2012). Short horizons and shady situations: When lack of continuity to our future selves leads to unethical behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 117, 298-310.

Hershfield, H.E., Goldstein, D.G., Sharpe, W.F., Fox, J., Yeykelvis, L., Carstensen, L.L., & Bailenson, J. (2011). Increasing saving behavior through age-progressed renderings of the future self. Journal of Marketing Research, 48, S23-S27.

Ersner-Hershfield, H., Galinsky, A., Kray, L., & King, B. (2010). Country, company, connections: Counterfactual origins increase patriotism, organizational commitment, and social investment. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1479-1486.

Ersner-Hershfield, H., Garton, M.T., Ballard, K., Samanez-Larkin, G.R., & Knutson, B. (2009). Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow: Individual differences in future self-continuity account for saving. Judgment and Decision Making, 4(4), 280-286.

Ersner-Hershfield, H., Mikels, J. A., Sullivan, S., & Carstensen, L. L. (2008). Poignancy: Mixed emotional experience in the face of meaningful endings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 158-67.



2017 Eric and "E" Juline Faculty Excellence in Research Award

2017 George J. Robbins Assistant Professor Teaching Award

2017 Poets & Quants 40 Under 40 Top Business School Professors

2011 Association for Psychological Science Rising Star Award

2011 Kellogg School of Management Teaching Impact Award

2008 Albert H. and Barbara Hastorf Award for Teaching, Stanford University



TEDx East: How Can We Help Our Future Selves?