Sep 26

How is Scientific Research reporting on Time?

How we make sense of Time

I trust you will excuse the deliberate ambiguity in the title and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic. I have been making time to catch up on my reading and have just finished reading an interesting article on research into how we “make sense” of time in an old copy of American Scientific Mind.

Reference is made to how all cultures appear to use spatial metaphors to express time. You may have noticed an example in my first paragraph.

The authors, Cooperrider and Nunez describe the most common types of spatial metaphor in a way that students of NLP will find familiar.

“Using spatial metaphors, we imagine time in two ways: as a path we walk with future events in front and past behind or as a sequence we view externally, as in summer, fall, winter, spring.”

When teaching time based techniques in NLP there is a value in being able to reference scientific research.  The common use of the above definition in NLP seems to have escaped the notice of the scientific community however I feel it is essential that we remain willing to reference science our work.

The article also suggests that writing can have a priming effect on the spatial perception of time pointing to how cultures examined matched direction of time to direction of writing.

In NLP, we have long discussed the spatial orientation of time and when eliciting individual timelines place emphasis on calibrating the spatial layout of our “client’s” timeline. When teaching this I place emphasis on how easily the inexperienced Practitioner can inadvertently influence the client either linguistically or by indicating a direction unconsciously.

This article does provide some useful data for NLP Practitioner and NLP Trainers. Taking note of such research can help us to make links between the approaches we use and empirical evidence to support what we do.

Melody Cheal, MSc
NLP Master Trainer

Links to reference article in Scientific American Mind