Psychological Spacetime: Implications of Relativity Theory for Time Perception

Lucian Gideon Conway, Meredith A. Repke, Shannon C. Houck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

It has been an accepted scientific fact in physics for almost 100 years that time speeds up and slows down for an observer based on factors—such as motion and gravity—that affect space. Yet this fact, drawn from the theory of relativity, has not been widely integrated into the study of the psychology of time. The present article helps to fill in this gap between physics and psychology by reviewing evidence concerning what a psychological spacetime processor—one that accounted for the theory of relativity’s empirically validated predictions of the compensatory relationship between time and space—would look like. This model of the spacetime processor suggests that humans should have a psychological mechanism for slowing time down as motion speeds up, a prediction that already has widespread research support. We also discuss several novel hypotheses directly suggested by the spacetime model and a set of related speculations that emerge when considering spacetime (some of which have already received empirical support). Finally, we compare and contrast three very different potential reasons why we might have developed a spacetime processor in the first place. We conclude that the spacetime model shows promise for organizing existing data on time perception and generating novel hypotheses for researchers to pursue. Considering how humans might process spacetime helps reduce the existing gap between our understanding of physics and our understanding of human psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSAGE Open
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Keywords

  • physics
  • relativity theory
  • spacetime
  • time perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Psychological Spacetime: Implications of Relativity Theory for Time Perception'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this