WG2 Details

A developmental view and analysis of individual and cultural factors on TP

One longstanding issue in the study of TP relates to the differences observed within and across individuals and their underlying causes. Previous research has shown that TP is affected by cognitive development and decline, gender, severe developmental disorders, acquired brain damage, etc. TP variability may also be due to other factors like memory and attention. Time is closely linked to many aspects of perception and cognition, these links must be studied in order to better understand TP and allow for better theories on the processes underlying TP.

Empirical findings indicate that, beginning as early as the second month of life human infants can integrate multisensory events on the basis of time; thus implying that TP is a critical component in human development. The infant’s experience of time, however, is quite different from that of adults. Thus, using a developmental approach in the study of TP will provide valuable information regarding the time course of TP, but most importantly will allow investigation of the neural mechanisms underlying TP.

Memory and attention are two cognitive processes closely linked with time. The interplay between TP and memory has been investigated in various ways. Autobiographical memory and retrospective duration judgments and prospective memory are some examples of this interplay. To date, several models have been proposed for the link of TP and memory; however, no unified model has been proposed. Another important relationship is that of attention and TP. For instance, one’s perceived duration of a given event can be modulated by attention alone: increasing the events’ perceived duration when attended, while shortening its duration when unattended. Thus, attention can have effects on one’s temporal percept of a given event. It is necessary therefore to further address the relationships between memory, attention, and TP.

Culture and language represent another set of variables related to TP. A generally accepted notion is that time moves forward and that events happen in a unidirectional fashion. This is reflected through language, where in most cases people from various cultures use spatial metaphors to talk about time (e.g., looking “forward”to lunch). Recent research has demonstrated that people whose native language conceptualizes time with a different directionality (vertical vs. horizontal) interpret statements regarding time differently. Thus, suggesting that our concept of time is modulated by the way a given language associates the concepts of time and space. What happens in the cases where the concept of time is ambiguously represented in a language? Similar questions can be raised for interaction of gestures-culture and TP. It is pertinent therefore to study TP in terms of language, gesture, and culture, in order to define its different representations and how they shape our perceptions.

Possible outcomes:

  1. In-depth analysis and review of the biological/cognitive factors promoting TP differences within and across individuals.
  2. Development of strategies in comparing TP developmentally (including the definition of the methodology/stimuli parameters to be used).
  3. In-depth analysis of time metaphors in language and gesture cross-culturally.
  4. A conceptual analysis of static versus dynamic ideas of time based on temporal logic.
  5. Development of TP questionnaires, adapted for different age groups and cultures, thus allowing for cross-cultural comparisons and other large epidemiological studies.
  6. Development of a linguistic database with multicultural time expressions by studying existing representations of temporal/eventual information (e.g., TimeML).
  7. Development of a knowledge based system able to recognize temporal expressions; it will be especially focused on the monitoring of opinions through time (i.e., how people change their opinions through time).