Mental time lines across the world : how do people think about time in Hebrew, Mandarin, and English?

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Across cultures people rely on space to represent time. However, the particular spatial layout created to represent time differs across cultures, and is affected by different sources of culturo-linguistic experience. In the studies described in this dissertation I focus on two such sources of information; reading directionality and spatial metaphors. First, I show that Hebrew and English speakers consistently arrange temporal sequences in a way that is congruent with their writing directionality, left to right for English speakers, and right to left for Hebrew speakers. Moreover, making judgments about earlier and later events with a key orientation that is incongruent with one's writing directionality (e.g, 'right' for earlier events in the English speaking group) creates interference, and produces slower responses. I then compare English and Mandarin speakers, to see whether the way speakers of these languages think about time reflects the way they habitually talk about it. In Mandarin, vertical metaphors of time are used more frequently and systematically than they are in English. Accordingly, the findings suggest that Mandarin speakers are faster to make temporal order judgments when the 'earlier' key is positioned on top of the 'later' key. English speakers do not show that congruency effect. Overall, the findings presented in this work suggest that culturally specific spatial representations are accessed automatically when people think about time, even in non-linguistic tasks, for temporal sequences that are not usually laid out in space in a particular directionality, and even when space is implicit to the task.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2010
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Fuhrman, Orly
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Psychology
Primary advisor Boroditsky, Lera
Thesis advisor Boroditsky, Lera
Thesis advisor Clark, Eve V
Thesis advisor Clark, Herbert H
Advisor Clark, Eve V
Advisor Clark, Herbert H


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Orly Fuhrman.
Note Submitted to the Department of Psychology.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2010.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2010 by Orly Fuhrman
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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