Portrait image for Hal Hershfield

Hal Hershfield

Professor of Marketing and Behavioral Decision Making, Marketing Area Chair
“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?”
Gold Hall, B-419
Areas of Expertise:
  • Behavioral Decision Making
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Marketing
  • Psychology
  • Retirement
  • Social Psychology


Psychologist Hal Hershfield studies how thinking about time transforms the emotions and alters the judgments and decisions people make. His research concentrates 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.”

When do we finally become our future selves? Hershfield says, “It all depends on how we think 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 that 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.”

Hershfield completed his Ph.D. at Stanford and a post-doc at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University before teaching undergraduates at NYU Stern. He is now Professor of Marketing, Behavioral Decision Making, and Psychology at UCLA Anderson, and holds the UCLA Anderson Board of Advisors Term Chair in Management. The business 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’s “Bring Your Challenges” campaign, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Merrill Lynch, the Principal Financial Group and many other organizations.

In the classroom, Hershfield strives to create an inclusive environment in which deep learnings are accomplished in a fun way. “Whatever teaching I do has to be enjoyable for the students and for me,” he says. Pop culture examples abound and provide lessons that are effective because they resonate outside specialized frameworks.


Ph.D. Psychology, 2009, Stanford University

B.A. Psychology, 2001, Tufts University

For recent reviews of my work, see Hershfield (2018) and Hershfield & Bartels (2018)

Select Publications

Larsen, J. T., Hershfield, H. E., Cazares, J. L., Hogan, C. L., & Carstensen, L. L. (2021 Meaningful endings and mixed emotions: The double-edged sword of reminiscence on good times. Emotion.

Sharif, M. A., Mogilner, C., & Hershfield, H. E. (2021). Having too little or too much discretionary time is linked to lower subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Kappes, H. B., Gladstone, J. J., & Hershfield, H. E. (2021). Beliefs about whether spending implies wealth. Journal of Consumer Research. 

Walters, D. J., & Hershfield, H. E. (2021). Consumers make different inferences and choices when product uncertainty is attributed to forgetting rather than ignorance. Journal of Consumer Research. 

Hershfield, H.E., & Maglio, S.J. (2020). When does the present end and the future begin? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 

Reiff, J. S., Hershfield, H. E., & Quoidbach, J. (2020). Identity over time: Perceived similarity between selves predicts well-being ten years later. Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Hershfield, H. E., Shu, S., & Benartzi, S. (2020). Temporal reframing and participation in a savings experiment: A field experiment. Marketing Science.

Meyer, M.L., Hershfield, H.E., Waytz, A.G., Mildner, J., & Tamir, D. I. (2019). Creative expertise is associated with transcending the here and now. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Hershfield, H.E., & Alter, A. L. (2019). On the naturalistic relationship between mood and entertainment choice. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. 

Greenberg, A. E. & Hershfield, H. E. (2019). Financial decision making. Consumer Psychology Review, 2, 17-29.

Rutchick, A.M., Slepian, M.L., Reyes, M.O., Pleskus, L.N., & Hershfield, H.E. (2018). Future self-continuity is associated with improved health and increases exercise behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

Hershfield, H. E. (2018). The self over time. Current Opinion in Psychology.

Hershfield, H.E., John, E.M., Reiff, J.S. (2018). Using vividness interventions to improve financial decision making. Policy Insights from the Brain and Behavioral Sciences.

Mogilner, C., Hershfield, H.E., & Aaker, J. (2018). Rethinking time: Implications for well-being. Consumer Psychology Review. 

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.

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. Emotion.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Hershfield, H.E. & Bartels, D. (2018). The future self. In Oettingen, G., Sevincer, A.T., & Gollwitzer, P.M. (eds). The Psychology of Thinking about the Future.  

For full publication list, please see CV

Selected Awards

2021 Fellow, Society for Personality and Social Psychology

2021 Neidorf “Decade” Teaching Award

2018 Citibank Teaching Award

2017 Eric and E Juline Faculty Excellence in Research Award

2017 George J. Robbins Assistant Professor Teaching Award

2017 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

Press & Media

Don’t Just Spend Your Time—Invest It The Wall Street Journal 12/28/2022

How Thinking About 'Future You' Can Build a Happier Life BBC 02/01/22

Why Having Too Much Free Time Can Be As Bad For You As Having Too Little The Washington Post 09/21/21

Plan Your Life Again, but Keep It Simple The New York Times 05/04/2021

How Elvis Got Americans to Accept the Polio Vaccine Scientific American 01/18/2021

Should You Immerse Yourself in Bad News These Days or Ignore It Completely? Scientific American 05/05/2020

2020: A Year Without Parties, Celebrations or Ambition - The Year We Lost The Atlantic 12/15/2020

Time Is Meaningless Now Vice 04/10/2020

How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have? The Atlantic 02/21/2019

Why It's So Hard to Put 'Future You' Ahead of 'Present You' The New York Times 09/10/2018

The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain The Atlantic 09/2018

It's Time to A/B Test Your Financial Life The Wall Street Journal 06/10/2018