Siew Hong Tan


This thesis examines cultural variations in time perception, as well as the possible influences on mental representation and decisions. Building on prior research on cultural differences in time-related perceptions, two main time perceptions were identified and focused on, namely temporal orientation and the use of time metaphor. The temporal orientation line of investigation explores the implications of a stronger future versus past orientation among English and Mandarin-speakers respectively. Based on Construal Level Theory, temporal orientation is expected to be related to psychological distance, which in turn affects the mental representations individuals form. The findings supported a stronger future orientation among English-speakers which is also evident in their mental representations that vary as a function of temporal orientation. However, Mandarin-speakers exhibited neither a strong past nor future orientation. A study examining the possible influence of temporal orientation on value judgment revealed a complex association between culture and value judgment. The time metaphor line of inquiry investigates the use of time metaphors among English and Mandarin-speakers and also the possible implications of such tendencies. Although previous psychological research implies a possible connection between the use of time metaphor and sense of personal control, this relationship is yet to be established. The findings showed supportive evidence of a frequent use of ego and time-moving metaphors among English and Mandarin-speakers respectively. However, studies examining the relationship between the use of time metaphor, perceived personal control, and decisions (optimism bias and risk-taking) revealed little supportive evidence of an association between them. The findings and a range of methodological and theoretical implications are discussed in the closing chapter.

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