Across cultures, people frequently communicate about time in terms of space. English speakers in the United States, for example, might “look forward” to the future or gesture toward the left when talking about the past. As shown by these examples, different dimensions of space are used to represent different temporal concepts. Here, we explored how cultural factors and individual differences shape the development of two types of spatiotemporal representations in 6- to 15-year-old children: the horizontal/vertical mental timeline (in which past and future events are placed on a horizontal or vertical line that is external to the body) and the sagittal mental timeline (in which events are placed on a line that runs through the front-back axis of the body). We tested children in India because the prevalence of both horizontal and vertical calendars there provided a unique opportunity to investigate how calendar orientation and writing direction might each influence the development of the horizontal/vertical mental timeline. Our results suggest that the horizontal/vertical mental timeline and the sagittal mental timeline are constructed in parallel throughout childhood and become increasingly aligned with culturally-conventional orientations. Additionally, we show that experience with calendars may influence the orientation of children's horizontal/vertical mental timelines, and that individual differences in children's attitudes toward the past and future may influence the orientation of their sagittal mental timelines. Taken together, our results demonstrate that children are sensitive to both cultural and personal factors when building mental models of time.
Friday, March 26, 2021
Plasticity during our development of mapping time on to space.
A previous mindblog post has pointed to work showing how culture shapes our spatial conceptions of time. Starr and Srinivasan now address the development of spatial representations of time in three dimension in children from different cultures.: