Space and Time in the Child’s Mind: Evidence for a Cross-Dimensional Asymmetry.


What is the relationship between space and time in the human mind? Studies in adults show an asymmetric relationship between mental representations of these basic dimensions of experience: representations of time depend on space more than representations of space depend on time. Here we investigated the relationship between space and time in the developing mind. Native Greek-speaking children (N=99) watched movies of two animals traveling along parallel paths for different distances or durations and judged the spatial and temporal aspects of these events (e.g., Which animal went for a longer time, or a longer distance?) Results showed a reliable cross-dimensional asymmetry: for the same stimuli, spatial information influenced temporal judgments more than temporal information influenced spatial judgments. This pattern was robust to variations in the age of the participants and the type of language used to elicit responses. This finding demonstrates a continuity between space-time representations in children and adults, and informs theories of analog magnitude representation.

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