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Journal Article

Time in the mind: Using space to think about time


Casasanto,  Daniel
Neurobiology of Language Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, CA ;

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Casasanto, D., & Boroditsky, L. (2008). Time in the mind: Using space to think about time. Cognition, 106, 579-573. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2007.03.004.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-40E2-4
How do we construct abstract ideas like justice, mathematics, or time-travel? In this paper we investigate whether mental representations that result from physical experience underlie people’s more abstract mental representations, using the domains of space and time as a testbed. People often talk about time using spatial language (e.g., a long vacation, a short concert). Do people also think about time using spatial representations, even when they are not using language? Results of six psychophysical experiments revealed that people are unable to ignore irrelevant spatial information when making judgments about duration, but not the converse. This pattern, which is predicted by the asymmetry between space and time in linguistic metaphors, was demonstrated here in tasks that do not involve any linguistic stimuli or responses. These findings provide evidence that the metaphorical relationship between space and time observed in language also exists in our more basic representations of distance and duration. Results suggest that our mental representations of things we can never see or touch may be built, in part, out of representations of physical experiences in perception and motor action.