Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The past and future are in your hands: How gestures affect our understanding of temporal concepts
by Ng, Mai Rong Melvin, M.Soc.Sci., National University of Singapore (Singapore), 2015, 56; 10009650
Abstract (Summary)

Spatial metaphors are commonly used by individuals to represent and reason about time. In English, such spatial metaphors are arranged primarily along the sagittal axis (e.g., “Looking forward to tonight’s dinner”; Radden, 2004). These metaphors are often paired with gestures when people talk about time that reveal the possible axes along which an indvidual’s internal conceptualisation of time may be aligned against (e.g., gesturing towards the space in front when talking about a future-related subject; Casasanto & Jasmin, 2012). Previous experimental investigations that employed the response congruency methodology as their means of investigation have found that time is represented along the lateral axis in English speakers with the past on the left and the future on the right, despite an absence of metaphors arraying time along this axis. In such investigations (e.g., Lai & Boroditsky, 2013), participants were required to respond in conventional ways for some blocks (with the past on the left and the future on the right), and non-conventional ways in others (past on the right, future on the left). An issue faced by these studies is the usage of a forced spatialization of responses as a proxy to investigate space-time associations in the mind. This usage of such specific motor responses along the lateral plane may emphasize and predispose participants into adopting this plane for temporal representation. As such, their findings could have been a result of their experimental methodology, rather than how time is actually represented in the minds. Ultimately, however, a mode of response is necessary in order to tap the temporal representations that exist in the mind. A priming paradigm using temporal gestures as primes was proposed as an alternative means to investigate how time is represented in the minds. By shifting the congruency effect to an earlier point in the processing stream while keeping responses constant, the advantages of the priming paradigm may be accrued and temporal concepts in the mind can be accessed directly. Participants made temporal classifications of words after watching a gestural prime. Results revealed effects of congruency along the sagittal axis, but not the lateral axis. This suggests that individuals primarily represent time along the sagittal axis when not constrained by a particular response format. Implications for models of how individuals represent time as well as methods of investigating how time is represented in the mind are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
School: National University of Singapore (Singapore)
Department: Psychology
School Location: Republic of Singapore
Source: MAI 55/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Cognitive psychology
Publication Number: 10009650
ISBN: 978-1-339-46140-3
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