How Our Perception of Time Affects Us

July 13, 2011 Katharina Lochner

The Secret Powers of Time

Last week, we learned that Philip Zimbardo, one of the most famous psychologists, is currently doing research on time perspectives. He only just gave a talk on this topic at the European Congress of Psychology in Istanbul. So what is time perspective, and what implications does it have?

According to Professor Zimbardo, time perspective refers to “ways in which individuals develop temporal orientations that parcel the flow of personal experience into the mental categories, or time zones, of Past, Present, and Future, and also a Transcendental Future (beliefs about a future life after one’s death)”. People focus either on the past, present or future, and there are different paces of time. This has, for example, implications on how hard people work, on how well they do at school, or on how healthy they are. There are differences between different regions of the world, cities, or religious beliefs.

In a really entertaining video, he explains these ideas and his research results.

Now why is time perspective important? One of Zimbardo’s ideas is that many conflicts result from different time perspectives. But he even goes one step further and states that a balanced time perspective is important for living a happy and fulfilling life. He sees the reason for this in the fact that only people with a balanced time perspective can flexibly adapt to the necessities of the present situation. For different situations, different time orientations are beneficial. For example, for making a career, it is important to focus on the future, but when you recreate, it is better to be able just to focus on the moment. He further explains his ideas in a book chapter. On the website www.thetimeparadox.com, you can take Zimbardo’s questionnaire assessing your time orientation.

Past, present, and future. It is all a matter of perspective, and balancing the three perspectives can help enhance your well-being.

 

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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