Currently I am reading I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way You See the World by James Geary. If you are a language nerd then you may like this book. If you have a PhD in linguistics then this book may be too simple for you. If you do not completely love the show “A Way with Words” then this book might be a bit boring for you.
However, there are a number of studies in this book that are quite fantastic and this post is the first of a couple of posts on this particular study on how we embody time. Here is the study, and you can play along.
“Participants looked at a drawing of a chair with a rope attached to it. Half of the subjects imagined pulling the chair toward themselves with the rope; the other half imagined sitting in the chair and pulling themselves forward along the rope.”
(If you are playing along, go ahead and pick one of the groups and imagine accordingly).
“Both groups then read the statement “Next Wednesday’s meeting has been moved forward two days” and were asked: What day is the meeting that has been rescheduled?”
(If you are still playing along, write down your answer.)
“The answer to the question “What day is the meeting that has been rescheduled?” is not obvious, because the concept of “forward” in the context of “the future” is ambiguous. When the meeting is rescheduled, does it move closer to you or do you move closer to it?”
If you imagined pulling the chair towards yourself in the illustration then…
“Participants who imagined pulling the chair toward themselves more often reported that the meeting had been moved to Monday, consistent with the metaphorical concept that time moves events toward them.”
If you imagined pulling yourself forward along the rope…
“Participants who imagined pulling themselves along the rope more often reported that the meeting had been rescheduled to Friday, consistent with the concept that an event is a stationary object toward which time moves them.”
Did this match up with you? If you imagined pulling the chair toward you did you answer Monday? If you imagined pulling yourself along the rope did you answer Friday?
The next post will elaborate a bit more on this idea, but wanted to open this up with you to ponder this question – how is it that imagining a simple action have an impact on the way we understand time?