Guest Speaker: Understanding the linguistic and cultural representation of Time: Conceptualisation, acquisition, and time-related decisions - Dr. Yan Gu, University of Essex
Speaker: Dr Yan Gu, Columbia University
Title: Understanding the linguistic and cultural representation of Time: Conceptualisation, acquisition, and time-related decisions
Host: Kita Sotaro
Abstract: Across cultures and languages, people use various ways to represent time (e.g., hourglass, gesture). In this talk, I focus on three aspects of time: First, I examine different populations (e.g., monolinguals, spoken bilinguals, bimodal bilinguals (hearing signers) and deaf-print bilinguals), and show how culture, language and bodily experience affect people’s conceptualisation of time. I will present evidence from people’s eye movements, spontaneous gestures, sign language, etc. Second, I investigate the effects of temporal languages on 3–6-year-old children’s understanding of time. For example, due to the spatial metaphors for time, Chinese children acquire a certain timeline earlier than the American children and even on the same axis they may have an opposite temporal orientation (e.g., future is downward vs future is upward). I will also briefly discuss how children integrate numerical and temporal information.
Thirdly, as the sense of time has a profound influence on behavioural motivations, I report a five-year project investigating how differences in conceptualisation of time such as the cultural temporal focus/values on the past and future may relate to people’s economic decisions and well-being (N = 1177). We find that temporal focus can predict people’s pension planning, savings, and financial wealth. The longitudinal study also reveals that habitually more attending to the future negatively correlates to diseases, but positively associates with health-related behaviour (eating vegetables and fruit; less smoking), health status (e.g., weight; life expectancy), income, hourly wages, financial satisfaction and happiness concurrently and five years later, even after controlling for the baseline situation, IQ, self-control, patience, risk aversion and demographic information. In conclusion, language and culture can affect people’s expression, acquisition and perception of time, which in turn may affect our time-related decisions and well-being.