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《Journal of Psychological Science》 2013-03
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The Spatial Character of Temporal Order Information

Ruan Kunliang;Huang Xiting;School of Psychology,Southwest University;  
concepts are represented in terms of concrete,readily available dimensions,such as space.Time is a very abstract and yet ubiquitous concept.Thus the research of the metaphorical representation of time is very important for understanding the process of time cognition." Time is Space" is the prototype of metaphorical form of time.It is well known that cognitive representation of numerals has spatial characteristics.People always respond to small numbers with left hand faster than with right hand,and to large numbers faster with right hand than with left hand,which is called the spatial-numerical association of response codes(SNARC) effect.Similar SNARC effect,the congruity between spatial and temporal information along the mental time line '(past-left and future-right mapping) may facilitate manual responses,which yields the spatial-temporal association of response codes(STEARC) effect.The STEARC effect has been shown for several ordinal sequences,such as conventional temporal order,meaningful event sequences and newly learned ordered sequences.The STEARC effect has been demonstrated in various tasks.Several studies suggested that temporal concept is mentally aligned not only horizontally with a left-to-right directionality but also vertically with a top-to-bottom orientation.Native English speakers use the horizontal spatial metaphor primarily to express time,whereas those of Chinese also use the vertical metaphors.But the spatial direction of temporal order representation is flexible:in cultures with left-to-right orthography(e.g.,English-speaking cultures) time appears to flow rightward,but in cultures with right-to-left orthography(e.g.,Arabic-speaking cultures) time flows leftward.Reading direction and graphical conventions may influence the spatial direction of temporal order representation.Some evidence already points out the fact that at least some aspects of the spatialization of time are not universal and do indeed vary across cultures.However,new conceptual metaphors can be acquired by quick learning.Native English speakers who had just been briefly trained to talk about time using vertical terms produce results very similar to those of Chinese speakers.The temporal reference of words can orient spatial attention.Centrally presented words referring to the past and the future can orient the participants' visual attention and prime motor responses in correspondence with their habitual reading and writing direction.Finally,several future research directions were suggested.First,the neural mechanisms of spatial and temporal concept.Neuropsychological studies have revealed that our temporal and spatial processes are related to the right parietal cortex,lateral intraparietal area,and left parietal cortex.Second,the human cognition of time can be divided into different ranges according to length of time.The association between time and space may differ with various time ranges.Third,spatial representation of time is different in different cultures of the world;for example,the concept of time is quite special in China.The Chinese concept of time is circular,while Western concept of time is linear.
【Fund】: 中央高校基本科研业务费专项资金项目(SWU1109068);; 西南大学国家重点学科基础心理学211工程项目(NSKD11034)的资助
【CateGory Index】: B842
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