Psychology of time

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Information about Psychology of time

Published on March 15, 2014

Author: John_Kuna_PsyD



Introduction to the psychology of time

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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