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How We Make Sense of Time

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https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-we-make-sense-of-time/

scientificamerican.com

How We Make Sense of Time
Scientific American is the essential guide to the most awe-inspiring advances in science and technology, explaining how they change our understanding of the world and shape our lives.

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Past and future

Past and future
  • When English speakers use hand gestures to talk about the past and the future, they thrust a hand over the shoulder for the past and put a hand forward to indicate the future. English speake...

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How humans sense time

Humans are different from animals in that we don't sense time only as passing. We dice time into units or think of time to go beyond our lifespan, such as millennia. We rely on time con...

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Describing yesterday and tomorrow

Recent research suggests that across all cultures, the concept of time depends on metaphor, known as a conceptual metaphor. We build our understanding of duration and sequences of events ou...

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The spatial metaphors

Time is difficult to explain, yet we deal with it every day. All people talk of time as "motion on a space," and think of time as linear.

  • Durations are talked about using size ("a sh...

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Spacial concepts

People of all cultures lean on spatial concepts for understanding time, but exactly which spatial metaphors they use can vary.

  • The English may speak of "a long time ago...

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Thinking of time as space

The parts of the brain used for thinking about space are also used for thinking about time.

  • Studies reveal that people with damage to space-related brain areas also have trouble thin...

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The influence of writing

Time as space metaphor shows up in our language and gestures, but also in depictions of external sequences of events.

  • Histories are laid out on timelines.
  • The human evoluti...

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Metaphors are cultural

The concept of time reveals the human's capacity for abstract thought. But time is not the only abstract domain, nor the only one we understand through metaphor. Spatial metaph...

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