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Zimbardo & Boyd – 1991 – Putting Time in Perspective: A valid, reliable individual-differences metric

Summary: Seminal paper that initiated a nearly two decade research agenda on temporality that is grounded in Lewin’s field theory. The paper introduces Time Perspective (TP) Theory, a psychosocial construct used to encode, store, and recall experienced events as well as to anticipate future events. TP Theory describes a non-conscious process of cognitive frames, concrete and abstract representations, and learned experiences which help to give meaning and order to everyday life. TP theory provides guidance on how individual time perspective profile types — past, present and future — affect the way people interpret and interact with temporal information. The Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) is an empirically tested Likert scale that measures the various social, emotional, cognitive and motivational processes that contribute to and influence the ways people relate to time. The ZPTI was also found to be both a valid and reliable predictor of other temporally-related psychological factors (both positive as in goal setting, achievement, etc., and negative as in addiction, guilt, etc.).

Synthesis: Identifies time perspective as both a state and a trait. Claims that temporal bias results from habitual overuse/underuse of past, present or future temporal frames. Introduces the idea of optimal time shifting to incorporate various environmental forces for a healthier, more holistic approach to sensemaking. This fits with the idea that situational time perspective shifting is not only possible and be preferred. What are the heuristics and/or design implications for evoking more ideal time shifting behaviors and outcomes?

Foundational concepts in this study: time perspective, sociotemporality

Agreement in related work: The ZPTI scale’s resulting Time Perspective Profile types have also been extensively studied and correlated with metaphor use, cultural identities, task performance, and other psychosocial and cognitive constructs.

Contested areas: A core premise of Zimbardo and Boyd’s research diverges from Nuttin, Bandura and Carstensen’s work. Time Perspective Theory posits that dynamic influences on present behavior and cognition comes from top-down abstract (past/future) ideas and bottom-up environmental forces (social, biological, sensory). Critique of previous research as overly simplified, one-dimensional (focused on future or present states, ignored past) and that lacks reliable and valid measures for assessing time perspectives.

Gaps/Limits in this study:

Connections to my work: sociotemporality, metaphor

Annotated paper:

Zimbardo, Boyd – 1999 – Putting Time in Perspective A valid, reliable individual differences metric

Published inannotationstemporality