Published on March 15, 2014
J O H N G . K U N A , P S Y D A N D A S S O C I A T E S W W W . J O H N G K U N A P S Y D A N D A S S O C I A T E S . C O M Psychology of Time
I. Introduction to the Psychology of Time Time is both an objective reality, as well as a subjective psychological construct Time could be defined as the physical measurement of motion (ie, the measurement of the motion of the earth around the sun), Time is also a psychological construct Examples: “A watched pot never boils” = the seeming prolongation of less enjoyable experiences “Time flies when you’re having fun” is indicative of the psychological phenomenon whereby perception of time is directly proportional to our perceived level of enjoyment in the present task.
II. Psychology of Time: A (brief!) review of the Literature There is at present a vast literature on the psychology of time. Grondin, 2010 offers a thorough bibliography. Some specific studies: Psychology of time as it relates to our emotional state (Droit-Volet and Meck, 2007), Psychology of time and Memory (Fuminori, 2006), Children’s perception of time (Droit-Volet, 2013)
III. The vocabulary of the Psychology of Time A distinct lack of clarity and a uniform terminology is apparent throughout the literature (Hulbert and Lens, 1988; Nuttin, 1985). Time perception, temporal orientation, and time perspective, are often used equivocally (Hulbert and Lens, 1988). Concepts such as temporal experience, subjective experience, and sense of time are all used interchangeably and indicate how human beings delineate the passage of time into chunks or groups.
IV. Some Operational Definitions Time attitude refers to the positive or negative emotional response when understood in contradistinction towards past, present or future time periods (Nuttin, 1985). Time orientation, on the other hand, involves a defining which of the above time periods a person tends to favor (De Volder, 1979). Time perception is described as an individual’s subjective assessment of the passage of time itself.
V. Some Theoretical Camps Nuttin (1985), for example, describes time perception as a psychological construct containing four sub-factors: extension, structuralization, and realism. Nuttin represents a phenomenological approach to time perception. Tulving (2002) on the other hand, coined the term “chronesthesia” to describe a person’s subjective experience of time.
V. A Neurological Approach to Time Perspective The increase in new technologies over the past 15 years has led to a growing body of literature on the perception of time from a neurological perspective (Coull, Vidal, Nazarian, &Macar, 2004). With such a vast literature on the neurological component of time perception, an exhaustive review would not be possible here. Penney and Vaitilingam (2008) provide an invaluable list of tables obtained through imaging techniques. Macar and Vidal (2009) further provide a vital resource for those interested in EEG data concerning time perception.
VI. Zimbardo and Boyd (1999) They made a significant contribution to the study of time perception. Defined time perspective as the way in which individuals organize and relate to the dimensions of past, present and future, Created an instrument to measure one’s perspective of time—the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI).
The instrument measures 5 categories of time perspective: Past Negative (PN) is indicative of a negative view of the past, and may possibly indicate past trauma; Past Positive (PP) suggests a more positive and receptive view of past events; Present Hedonistic (PH), as the name implies, is associated with pleasure seeking in the present, with lack of concern for future consequences; Present Fatalistic (PF) describes a time perspective with lack of hope for the future, as well as the notion that at present fatalistic forces oversee one’s actions; Future (F) time perspective is concerned with rewards given after achievement of long term goals.
VII. Zimbardo and Boyd (1999): The Research Found that a Past Negative (PN) time perspective was correlated with fewer close friends, anxiety, depression and lower self-esteem (Zimbardo and Boyd, 1999). Further research has corroborated this, noting that individuals with a PN perspective also tend to gamble more (Wassarman, 2002), and are more likely to be in drug and alcohol programs (Klingeman, 2001). On the other hand, high PP scores were related to higher self- esteem levels and higher levels of well-being as well as agreeableness and energy levels (Zimbardo and Boyd, 1999).
Zimbardo and Boyd, Cont. Research on future time perspectives (F) indicates positive correlates of well-being such as less psychopathy (Wallace, 1956, cited in Zimbardo and Boyd, 1999) and higher levels of academic achievement (Zimbardo and Boyd, 1999), It has also been suggested that an overemphasis on a future time perspective inhibits spontaneity as well as an inability to enjoy the present (Boniwell and Zimbardo, 2004). Finally, while some research has indicated that Present temporal focus is associated with general subjective happiness (Csikszentrnihalyi, 1992; Keough, et a1., 1999), a Present Temporal focus could also be concerned with instant gratification and a lack of regard for the consequences of behavior.
Next: An introduction to the concept of Mindfulness; an analysis of empirical studies correlating Mindfulness and Perception of Time with Subjective Well-Being (both eudaimonic and henonic SWB). Implications for clinical practice will be offered.
References Anderson, C. M. (2000). From molecules to mindfulness. How vertically fractal time fluctuations unify cognition and emotion. Consciousness & Emotion, 1 (2), 193-226. Barnes, S., Brown, K.W., Campbell, W.K., Krusemark, E., & Rogge, R.D. (2007).The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to Relationship Stress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33 (4), 482-500. Boniwell, I. and Zimbardo, P. G. (2004). ‘Balancing One’s Time Perspective in Pursuit of Optimal Functioning’, in P. A. Linley and S. Joseph (eds) Positive Psychology in Practice, pp. 165-78. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Brown, K. W. and Ryan, R. M. (2003). ‘The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Wellbieng’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84(4): 822- 48. Czikszentmihalyi, M. (1992). The Psychology of Happiness. London: Rider Coull, J. T., Vidal, F., Nazarian, B., & Macar, F. (2004). Functional anatomy of the attentional modulation of time estimation. Science, 303, 1506-1508. Davis, D.M., & Hayes, J.A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48 (2), 198-208.
De Volder, M. (1979). ‘Time Orientation: A Review’, Psychologica Belgica 19: 61-79 Drake, L., Duncan, E., Sutherland, F., Abernethy, C., & Henry, C. (2008). Time perspective and correlates of well-being. Time & Society, 17 (1), 47-61. doi: 10.1177/0961463X07986304 Droit-Volet, S. and Meck, W. H. (2007). How Emotions Color our Perception of Time. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(12), 504-513. Droit-Volet, S. (2013). Time perception in children: A neurodevelopmental approach. Neuropsychologia. 51 (2), 220-234. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.09.023 Fuminori, O. (2006). The effect of memory on time perception. The Japanese Journal of Psychonomic Science, 25(2), 208-211. Glicksohn, J. (1992). Subjective time estimation in altered sensory environments. Environmental and Behavior, 24 (5), 634-652. doi:10.1177/0013916592245004.
Grondin, S. (2010). Timing and time perception: A review of recent behavioral and neuroscience findings and theoretical directions. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 72 (3), 561-582. doi: 10.3758/APP.72.3.561 Gulliksen, H. (1927). The influence of occupation upon the perception of time. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 10 (1), 52-59. doi: 10.1037/h0073995 Hulbert, R. J. and Lens, W. (1988). ‘Time and Self-Identity in Later Life’, International Journal of Aging and Human Development 27: 293-303 Jensen, C.G., Vangkilde, S., Frokjaer, V., &Hasselbalch. (2012). Mindfulness training affects attention- or is it attentional effort?. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 141 (1), 106-123. doi: 10.1037/a0024931 Keng, S.L., Smoski, M.J., & Robins, C.J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A Review of Empirical Studies. Clinical Psychology, 31 (6), 1041-1056.
Keough, K. A., Zimbardo, P. G. and Boyd, J. N. (1999), ‘Who’s Smoking, Drinking and Using Drugs? Time Perspective as a Predictor of Substance Use’, Basic and Applied Psychology 21(2): 149-64 Kleinbohl, D., & Holzl, R. (2012). A "view from No-when" on time perception experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38 (5), 1118-1124 Klingeman, H. (2001). ‘The Time Game: Temporal Activity on Emotional Well-being Among Older Australian Women: Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Analysis’, Time & Society 10(2-3): 303-28. Nuttin, J. (1985). Future Time Perspective and Motivation: Theory and Research Methods. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Macar, F., & Vidal, F. (2009). Timing processes: An outline of behavioural and neural indices not systematically considered in timing models. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 227- 239.doi:10.1037/a0014457 Penney, T. B., & Vaitilingam, L. (2008). Imaging time. In S. Grondin (Ed.), Psychology of time (pp. 261-294). Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Group. Tulving, E. (2002). Chronesthesia: Conscious awareness of subjective time. In D. T. Stuss & R. T. Knight (Eds.), Principles of frontal lobe function (pp. 311-325). New York: Oxford University Press.
Wassarman, H. S. (2002). ‘The Role of Expectancies and Time Perspectives in Gambling Behavior’, Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering 62(8-B): 3818 Wittmann, M. (2009). The inner experience of time. Philosophical Transitions of The Royal Society, 364 (1525), 1955-1967. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0003 Zimbardo, P. G. and Boyd, J. N. (1999). ‘Putting Time in Perspective: A Valid, Reliable and Individual Difference Metric’. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77: 1271- 88.
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