OPINION: This article is by Edward Wasserman, professor of psychological and brain sciences, The University of Iowa and Thomas Zentall, professor of psychology, University of Kentucky.
We have voyaged to the moon, developed technology to communicate over vast distances, and created wonderful art, music, literature and philosophy.
Yet, those more urgent survival needs (believed to be mediated by older brain systems that we share with many other animals) mean that we still engage in impulsive behaviours.
And those behaviours, which once promoted our survival and reproductive success, are now suboptimal, because we live in an environment in which long-term contingencies play an increasingly important part in our lives.
Science suggests that, despite our ability to give considerable weight to future consequences, we evolved to weigh the immediate and future unequally.
For instance, if we spot food, then our brains still tell us that we should respond rapidly because it may not be there if we wait.