The (fatalistic) present as experienced by individuals with Alzheimer’s disease: a preliminary study

  • Mohamad El HajEmail author
  • Dimitrios Kapogiannis
  • Pascal Antoine
Original Article



The “time perspectives theory” describes how individuals emphasize some time frames over others (e.g., present vs. future) and thus create their unique approach to time perception. Building on this theory, we investigated three time orientations in Alzheimer’s disease (AD): (1) present-hedonistic orientation, which focuses on current sensations and pleasures without considering the future, (2) present-fatalistic orientation, characterized by a bias of hopelessness and helplessness toward the future, and (3) future orientation, which focuses on achieving personal goals and future consequences of present actions.


Participants with mild AD (n = 30) and controls (n = 33) were assessed with a questionnaire regarding time perspectives and a questionnaire of depression.


Results demonstrated low future orientation and high present-fatalistic orientation in AD participants, whereas older adults demonstrated the reverse pattern. Depression positively correlated with fatalistic-present orientation, but negatively correlated with hedonistic-present and future orientations.


Although our findings are preliminary and the sample size is small, depression in mild AD seems to be related with a fatalistic orientation toward the present, as well as a hopeless and helpless perspective on the future, an orientation that results in little desire to enjoy the present.


Alzheimer’s disease Depression Future thinking Time perspectives 



The work was supported by the LABEX (excellence laboratory, program investment for the future), DISTALZ (Development of Innovative Strategies for a Transdisciplinary approach to Alzheimer disease), and the EU Interreg 2 Seas Programme 2014–2020 (co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund). This research was also supported in part (DK) by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging, NIH.

Compliance with ethical standards

All participants provided informed consent, and the study was conducted in accordance with the guidelines in The Declaration of Helsinki as well as those of the ethics committee of the Hospital of Tourcoing.

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Irish M, Piolino P (2015) Impaired capacity for prospection in the dementias - theoretical and clinical implications. Br J Clin PsycholGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Addis DR, Sacchetti DC, Ally BA, Budson AE, Schacter DL (2009) Episodic simulation of future events is impaired in mild Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologia. 47(12):2660–2671PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    El Haj M, Antoine P, Kapogiannis D (2015) Similarity between remembering the past and imagining the future in Alzheimer’s disease: implication of episodic memory. Neuropsychologia. 66(0):119–125PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    El Haj M, Antoine P, Kapogiannis D (2015) Flexibility decline contributes to similarity of past and future thinking in Alzheimer’s disease. Hippocampus. 25(11):1447–1455PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Zimbardo P, Boyd JN (1999) Putting time in perspective: a valid, reliable individual-differences metric. J Pers Soc Psychol 77(6):1271–1288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cotelli M, Manenti R, Zanetti O (2012) Reminiscence therapy in dementia: a review. Maturitas. 72(3):203–205PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Moos I, Björn A (2006) Use of the life story in the institutional care of people with dementia: a review of intervention studies. Ageing Soc 26(03):431–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cappeliez P (2013) Neglected issues and new orientations for research and practice in reminiscence and life review. Int J Reminiscence Life Rev 1(1):19–25Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Holtzer R, Scarmeas N, Wegesin DJ, Albert M, Brandt J, Dubois B, Hadjigeorgiou GM, Stern Y (2005) Depressive symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease: natural course and temporal relation to function and cognitive status. J Am Geriatr Soc 53(12):2083–2089PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Verkaik R, Nuyen J, Schellevis F, Francke A (2007) The relationship between severity of Alzheimer’s disease and prevalence of comorbid depressive symptoms and depression: a systematic review. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 22(11):1063–1086PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    El Haj M, Antoine P (2016) Death preparation and boredom reduction as functions of reminiscence in Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis 54(2):515–523PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Moore M, Höfer S, McGee H, Ring L (2005) Can the concepts of depression and quality of life be integrated using a time perspective? Health Qual Life Outcomes 3(1):1–10PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pavot W, Diener E, Suh E (1998) The temporal datisfaction with life scale. J Pers Assess 70(2):340–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Nurmi J-E, Pulliainen H, Salmela-Aro K (1992) Age differences in adults’ control beliefs related to life goals and concerns. Psychol Aging 7(2):194–196PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Drake L, Duncan E, Sutherland F, Abernethy C, Henry C (2008) Time perspective and correlates of wellbeing. Time Soc 17(1):47–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Maslow AH (1972) The farther reaches of human nature. Maurice Bassett, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Boniwell I (2005) Beyond time management: how the latest research on time perspective and perceived time use can assist clients with time-related concerns. Int J Evid Based Coach Mentor 3(2):61–74Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Zimbardo P, Boyd J (2008) The time paradox: the new psychology of time that will change your life. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Anagnostopoulos F, Griva F (2012) Exploring time perspective in Greek young adults: validation of the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory and relationships with mental health indicators. Soc Indic Res 106(1):41–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Laghi F, Baiocco R, D’Alessio M, Gurrieri G (2009) Suicidal ideation and time perspective in high school students. Eur Psychiatry 24(1):41–46PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Allemand M, Hill PL, Ghaemmaghami P, Martin M (2012) Forgivingness and subjective well-being in adulthood: the moderating role of future time perspective. J Res Pers 46(1):32–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Coudin G, Lima ML (2011) Being well as time goes by: future time perspective and well-being. Int J Psychol Psychol Ther 11(2):219–232Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Desmyter F, De Raedt R (2012) The relationship between time perspective and subjective well-being of older adults. Psychol Belg 52(1):19–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    De Raedt R, Van Der Speeten N (2008) Discrepancies between direct and indirect measures of death anxiety disappear in old age. Depress Anxiety 25(8):E11–EE7PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Shifflett PA (1987) Future time perspective, past experiences, and negotiation of food use patterns among the aged. The Gerontologist 27(5):611–615PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    McKhann GM, Knopman DS, Chertkow H, Hyman BT, Jack CR Jr, Kawas CH et al (2011) The diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease: recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer’s Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's Dement 7(3):263–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    El Haj M, Jardri R, Laroi F, Antoine P (2016) Hallucinations, loneliness, and social isolation in Alzheimer’ disease. Cogn Neuropsychiatry 21(1):1–13PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    El Haj M, Kapogiannis D, Antoine P (2016) Phenomenological reliving and visual imagery during autobiographical recall in Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis 52(2):421–431PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Folstein MF, Folstein SE, McHugh PR (1975) “Mini-mental state”. A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. J Psychiatr Res 12(3):189–198PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Grober E, Buschke H (1987) Genuine memory deficits in dementia. Dev Neuropsychol 3(1):13–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Zigmond AS, Snaith RP (1983) The hospital anxiety and depression scale. Acta Psychiatr Scand 67(6):361–370PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Apostolidis T, Fieulaine N (2004) Validation française de l'échelle de temporalité. Rev Eur Psychol Appl 54(3):207–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, Erlbaum AssociatesGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    García LV (2004) Escaping the Bonferroni iron claw in ecological studies. Oikos. 105(3):657–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Moran MD (2003) Arguments for rejecting the sequential Bonferroni in ecological studies. Oikos. 100(2):403–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Perneger TV (1998) What’s wrong with Bonferroni adjustments. BMJ. 316(7139):1236–1238PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Irish M, Addis DR, Hodges JR, Piguet O (2012) Considering the role of semantic memory in episodic future thinking: evidence from semantic dementia. Brain. 135(Pt 7):2178–2191PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Craver CF, Kwan D, Steindam C, Rosenbaum RS (2014) Individuals with episodic amnesia are not stuck in time. Neuropsychologia. 57:191–195PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Tulving E (2002) Episodic memory: from mind to brain. Annu Rev Psychol 53:1–25PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    La Corte V, George N, Pradat-Diehl P, Barba GD (2011) Distorted temporal consciousness and preserved knowing consciousness in confabulation: a case study. Behav Neurol 24(4):307–315PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Klein SB, Loftus J, Kihlstrom JF (2002) Memory and temporal experience: the effects of episodic memory loss on an amnesic patient’s ability to remember the past and imagine the future. Soc Cogn 20(5):353–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    La Corte V, Serra M, Attali E, Boisse MF, Dalla BG (2010) Confabulation in Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia: a qualitative account and a new taxonomy. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 16(6):967–974PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    El Haj M, Kapogiannis D (2016) Time distortions in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and theoretical integration. Npj Aging Mech Dis 2:16016PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Martinelli P, Anssens A, Sperduti M, Piolino P (2013) The influence of normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease in autobiographical memory highly related to the self. Neuropsychology. 27(1):69–78PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    El Haj M, Antoine P, Nandrino JL, Gely-Nargeot MC, Raffard S (2015) Self-defining memories during exposure to music in Alzheimer’s disease. Int Psychogeriatr 27(10):1719–1730PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Abramson LY, Metalsky GI, Alloy LB (1989) Hopelessness depression: a theory-based subtype of depression. Psychol Rev 96(2):358–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Beck AT, Brown G, Berchick RJ, Stewart BL, Steer RA (2006) Relationship between hopelessness and ultimate suicide: a replication with psychiatric outpatients. FOCUS. 4(2):291–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Dunning D, Story AL (1991) Depression, realism, and the overconfidence effect: are the sadder wiser when predicting future actions and events? J Pers Soc Psychol 61(4):521–532PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    O’Connor RC, Connery H, Cheyne WM (2000) Hopelessness: the role of depression, future directed thinking and cognitive vulnerability. Psychol Health Med 5(2):155–161PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Lavender A, Watkins E (2004) Rumination and future thinking in depression. Br J Clin Psychol 43(Pt 2):129–142PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Petkoska J, Earl JK (2009) Understanding the influence of demographic and psychological variables on retirement planning. Psychol Aging 24(1):245–251PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Carstensen LL, Isaacowitz DM, Charles ST (1999) Taking time seriously. a theory of socioemotional selectivity. Am Psychol 54(3):165–181PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Reed AE, Carstensen LL (2012) The theory behind the age-related positivity effect. Front Psychol 3:339PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Carstensen LL, Turan B, Scheibe S, Ram N, Ersner-Hershfield H, Samanez-Larkin GR, Brooks KP, Nesselroade JR (2011) Emotional experience improves with age: evidence based on over 10 years of experience sampling. Psychol Aging 26(1):21–33PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Fondazione Società Italiana di Neurologia 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nantes Université, Univ Angers, Laboratoire de Psychologie des Pays de la Loire (LPPL - EA 4638)NantesFrance
  2. 2.Unité de GériatrieCentre Hospitalier de TourcoingTourcoingFrance
  3. 3.Institut Universitaire de FranceParisFrance
  4. 4.Faculté de Psychologie, LPPL – Laboratoire de Psychologie des Pays de la LoireUniversité de NantesNantes Cedex 3France
  5. 5.Laboratory of NeurosciencesNational Institute on AgingBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.CNRS, CHU Lille, UMR 9193 - SCALab - Sciences Cognitives et Sciences AffectivesUniv. LilleLilleFrance

Personalised recommendations