UC Merced Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society Title Do we think about time in terms of space? Publication Date Do we think about time in terms of space?
Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
The human capacity for abstract thought poses an unsolved problem for the neural and cognitive sciences. How are people able to think about things that they can never see or touch, like ideas, mathematics, or time? A potential solution has emerged independently from such diverse fields as evolutionary biology and cognitive linguistics: the mind recruits old structures for new uses. It has been proposed, for example, that sensory and motor processes underlying spatial cognition are co-opted to
... n are co-opted to support our thinking about phenomena such as mathematics and time. Empirical support for this proposal has been elusive. Until recently, arguments have rested largely on patterns observed in human language. Here we present a series of psychophysical experiments that investigate mental representations in the abstract domain of time and in the perceptually richer domain of space. Results show that people rely on spatial information to estimate time, but not the other way around. These studies provide some of the first entirely nonlinguistic evidence that spatial representations subserve temporal representations, and suggest a new way to explore the perceptual foundations of abstract thought.