Time Perception Theorieslaws




TIME, THEORIES OF. To the psychologist, the concept of time refers to a dimension of consciousness by which one gives order to experiences. However, to the physicist, time is one of the three basic quantities (the other two are distance and mass) by which the universe is described in physical terms; and, to the philosopher, time is a diversity of many other concepts, abstractions, and entities. In the area of cosmology (the science that seeks to achieve a comprehensive theory of the creation, evolution, and present structure of the physical universe), a number of cosmological theories attempt to explain the origins and genesis of time. For example, the big-bang hypothesis/theory states that at the "beginning" of time, all of the matter and energy in the universe was concentrated in a very small volume that exploded (about eight to thirteen billion years ago), and the resultant expansion continues today. On the other hand, according to the steady-state theories, the universe is thought to expand but new matter is continuously created at all points in space left by receding galaxies. The impact of such cosmo-logical theories on the concept of time is that they imply the universe has always expanded -with no "beginning" or "end" - at a uniform rate and that it always will expand and maintain a constant density. Regarding the psychological aspects of time, in "civilized" societies the use of calendars, clocks, and other measurement devices helps to define time in terms of a "linear" progression, order, or succession of experienced events. Additionally, to manage and understand the concept of time, psychologists employ such terms as psychological time (experienced, sensed, or subjective time where the experience of duration is independent of external markers such as clocks, calendars, and day/night cycles, and where time appreciation is dependent on internal or endogenous events such as "chemical clocks," "biological clocks," "circadian rhythms," and "cognitive/mental markers"); time perception (the awareness of duration and the experience of the passage of time; subjective time; the perception of when an event occurred relative to other events); subjective time (the subjective feeling of duration with its absolute-given present; also called "experiential time" or "private time"); objective time (time that is an objectively determinable order in which durations are measured and an absolute present is indifferent; also called "public time"); psychological moment (a very short period of time within which successive stimuli are integrated and perceived as a whole; the instant of "now;" the period of time of immediate awareness; the meeting point between past and future); specious present (implies the concept of "nowness" and the psychological sense of the "present"); time sense (the apprehension of duration, change, order of occur rence, and the duration aspect of the attributes of experience); time perspective (the improved perspective that comes when events are viewed from a certain distance in time; the terms "temporal horizon" and "time orientation" are synonymous terms here); temporal/ time orientation (the use of molar temporal units, such as days, weeks, months, or years, in reflecting on, and assessing, time passage); time estimation (implies a kind of temporal quantification and assessment that is not necessarily included in "time perception"); sense of duration (depends on the number of stimuli that are perceived and stored in the mind: if an interval has many divisions, it tends to appear longer than an equal interval - of objective or clock-time - that has fewer divisions); and timeless moment/phenomenon (refers to an absolute instance of time that is not measurable because it is infinitesimally small; in this phenomenon, there is no present, only past and future because - like the "specious present" - the instant one attempts to reflect on such a moment, it is past). Other psychological-theoretical features of time include the following: the notion of change; time as both continuous and discrete; rhythm; reaction-time, the notion of duration [cf., the duration estimation paradox - based on the distinction between prospective time estimation (i.e., judging how much time will elapse before some coming event happens) and retrospective time estimation (i.e., judging how much time elapsed during a past event), this paradox refers to a tendency for individuals to make more accurate prospective time estimations than retrospective time estimations)]; the notions of past and future; the notion of "temporal atomicity;" subjective versus objective passage of time; linear versus cyclical time; lack of an absolute "time-unit;" successive or indivisible "nows;" the relationship and representation of time to motion, distance, and space (cf., jet lag effect - a bodily/cognitive condition of fatigue and disorientation occasioned by traveling across several time zones in a short period, in particular when traveling in an aircraft in an eastward direction, and caused by a discrepancy between "exogenous" temporal cues and "endogenous" physiological and biological mechanisms such as cir-cadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles); and

"social" time. The question whether the spatial representation of time reveals time's essential character (or is merely an artifact of humans' cerebral and perceptual mechanisms) is at the heart of the psychology and physics of time. Among the pre-modern and modern views, ideas, and theories of time in philosophy, physics, and psychology are the following notions (with proponents in parentheses): distinctions may be made between time and duration (Scholastics of the Middle Ages, 500-1500); the duration of things that are moved is not different from the duration of things that are not moved (Rene Descartes, 1596-1650); time is a "phantasm" produced by a body in motion, and time stands for the fact of succession, or "before" and "after" in motion (Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679); time is an imaginary representation wholly without ontological significance (Baruch Spinoza, 1632-1677); time is based on the notion of succession that is empirically derived as a result of reflecting on several ideas that are presented successively to consciousness (John Locke, 1632-1704); time may be viewed independently of experience (Ernst Mach, 18381916); "absolute" time is distinguished from "popular/subjective" time where absolute time is the only "true" time (Isaac Newton, 16421727); time appears short when the period has lively conversation or cheerful music (Thomas Reid, 1710-1796); time - not duration - exists only as events are occurring and is the relation of their succession, and time is purely relative and ideal (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, 16461716); time perception is an act of reason rather than of sense, and time is nothing (George Berkeley, 1685-1753); time perception and memory are fundamental acts of mind (David Hartley, 1705-1757); time is not infinitely divisible, but is made up of discrete moments each with the duration of a single idea (David Hume, 1711-1776); time is the a priori form of inner sensible intuitions that have no existence independently of the mind and are a subjective mode in which phenomena appear (Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804); succession is the whole nature of time (Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860); time is a river flowing inescapably into its own current (Heraclitus, c. 535-475 B.C., and Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, 1844-1900); time is one of the earliest notions of the infant (Thomas Brown, 1778-1820); time has no reality apart from space, or space apart from time and, as separate concepts, both are abstractions from the four-dimensional reality (Samuel Alexander, 1859-1938); chronological time is merely a symbol of space and is, therefore, distinct from the immeasurable flow of duration which is not less than the essence of life itself (Henri Bergson, 1859-1941); the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however persistent (Albert Einstein, 18791955). The bulk of the recent evidence in the experimental psychology of time has centered on the study of subjective "micro-time," i.e., with the precision of temporal estimates made of short intervals of clock time, such time estimates being made in the following ways: in numbers or words; by reproduction of a standard interval; or by production of an interval stated by the experimenter. In particular, such investigations have attempted to establish the following: the magnitude of that interval of time; the effects on a supposed optimal interval have been determined by delimiting the interval by signals varying in modality or intensity; "empty" intervals have been compared with intervals "filled" with sensory stimulation; thresholds for the separation of signals have been measured, as well as thresholds for the order of two signals presented in rapid succession; attempts have been made to devise psychophysical scales for psychological time extending to about 20 seconds; and the time taken to make a binary decision has been studied as a measure of subjective probability. A new chapter in the study of subjective time has begun recently wherein psychological judgments of duration are combined with judgments of physical distance and speed (e.g., the tau- and kappa-effects are included now in studies on the psychology of time). Another relatively recent ("new look") area of psychological time research emphasizes the relationship between temporal experience and other personality correlates both normal and abnormal. Finally, the study of timing and time perception has a dual history involving both human and animal study. Thus, in addition to human timing dealing with the production and organization of temporal patterns, the following topics have been studied in animal timing: temporal differentiation; trace conditioning; time discrimination; counting behavior; contingency in classical conditioning; cross-species competence; reinforcement integration; timing in animal learning; theories of timing behavior; pigeons' timing behavior and internal clock models; and human versus animal time. See also ARISTOTLE'S TIME THEORY AND PARADOX; BERGSON'S THEORY OF TIME; EARLY GREEK AND LATER PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES OF TIME; FRAISSE'S THEORY OF TIME; GUYAU'S THEORY OF TIME; JAMES' TIME THEORY; KALAM THEORY OF ATOMIC TIME; MICHON'S MODEL OF TIME; ORNSTEIN'S THEORY OF TIME; PLOT-INUS' THEORY OF TIME; PSYCHOLOGICAL TIME, MODELS OF; SCALAR TIMING THEORY; ST. AUGUSTINE'S TIME THEORY AND PARADOX; TAU- AND KAPPA-EFFECTS; VIERORDT'S LAWS. REFERENCES

Hawking, S. (1988). A brief history of time.

New York: Bantam Books. Roeckelein, J. E. (2000). The concept of time in psychology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.


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