Philosophical debates about the metaphysics of time typically revolve around two contrasting views of time. On the A-theory, time is something that itself undergoes change, as captured by the idea of the passage of time; on the B-theory, all there is to time is events standing in before/after or simultaneity relations to each other, and these temporal relations are unchanging. Philosophers typically regard the A-theory as being supported by our experience of time, and they take it that the B-theory clashes (...) with how we experience time and therefore faces the burden of having to explain away that clash. In this paper, we investigate empirically whether these intuitions about the experience of time are shared by the general public. We asked directly for people’s subjective reports of their experience of time—in particular, whether they believe themselves to have a phenomenology as of time’s passing—and we probed their understanding of what time’s passage in fact is. We find that a majority of participants do share the aforementioned intuitions, but interestingly a minority do not. (shrink)
It seems self-evident that people prefer painful experiences to be in the past and pleasurable experiences to lie in the future. Indeed, it has been claimed that, for hedonic goods, this preference is absolute (Sullivan, 2018). Yet very little is known about the extent to which people demonstrate explicit preferences regarding the temporal location of hedonic experiences, about the developmental trajectory of such preferences, and about whether such preferences are impervious to differences in the quantity of envisaged past and future (...) pain or pleasure. We find consistent evidence that, all else being equal, adults and children aged 7 and over prefer pleasure to lie in the future and pain in the past and believe that other people will too. They also predict that other people will be happier when pleasure is in the future rather than the past but sadder when pain is the future rather than the past. Younger children have the same temporal preferences as adults for their own painful experiences, but prefer their pleasure to lie in the past, and do not predict that others’ levels of happiness or sadness vary dependent on whether experiences lie in the past or the future. However, from the age of 7, temporal preferences were typically abandoned at the earliest opportunity when the quantity of past pain or pleasure was greater than the quantity located in the future. Past-future preferences for hedonic goods emerge early developmentally but are surprisingly flexible. (shrink)
Recent studies have suggested that while both adults and children hold past-future hedonic preferences – preferring painful experiences to be in the past and pleasurable experiences to lie in the future – these preferences are abandoned when the quantity of pain or pleasure under consideration is greater in the past than in the future. We examined whether such preferences might be affected by the utility people assign to experiential memories, since the recollection of events can itself be pleasurable or aversive, (...) and we examined the developmental trajectory of the value that people assign to experiential memories of past painful experiences. Using a task in which we manipulated hypothetical memory loss in a series of brief vignettes, we found that for some adults, but not for children, the disutility attached to the recollection of painful past events outweighed the disutility of living through future painful events. Between middle childhood and adulthood, experiential memory appears to assume a more important role in determining the value that people assign to past experiences and in mitigating bias toward the future. (shrink)
People hold intuitive theories of the physical world, such as theories of matter, energy, and motion, in the sense that they have a coherent conceptual structure supporting a network of beliefs about the domain. It is not yet clear whether people can also be said to hold a shared intuitive theory of time. Yet, philosophical debates about the metaphysical nature of time often revolve around the idea that people hold one or more “common sense” assumptions about time: that there is (...) an objective “now”; that the past, present, and future are fundamentally different in nature; and that time passes or flows. We empirically explored the question of whether people indeed share some or all of these assumptions by asking adults to what extent they agreed with a set of brief statements about time. Across two analyses, subsets of people's beliefs about time were found consistently to covary in ways that suggested stable underlying conceptual dimensions related to aspects of the “common sense” assumptions described by philosophers. However, distinct subsets of participants showed three mutually incompatible profiles of response, the most frequent of which did not closely match all of philosophers’ claims about common sense time. These exploratory studies provide a useful starting point in attempts to characterize intuitive theories of time. (shrink)
We address Dubourg and Baumard's claim that imaginary worlds are most appealing early in the lifespan when the exploratory drive is highest. Preschool-age children prefer fictions set in the real world, and fantastical information can be difficult for children to represent in real time. We speculate that a drive to explore imaginary worlds may emerge after children acquire substantial real-world skills and knowledge. An account of age effects on fictional preferences should encompass developmental change.