I might have turned eighteen, but I was thirteen again only several weeks ago as I was going through old fantasy books that had cradled my once wild imagination. I was sadly thirty just this morning as I woke up with a prematurely sore back. While the time travel of science fiction might certainly remain improbable, our everyday mental time travel is actually very much a reality.

Referred to more technically as chronesthesia, mental time travel actually follows a spatial-temporal correlation in which travelling between two points in time is not simply analogous to, but actually coincides with, movement between two points in space. That is to say, the latter is a physical manifestation of the perception of time in our mental mechanisms, according to psychological researchers at the University of Aberdeen.

In the study, postural movement was used as the spatial indication where retrospective thought of past imagery concurred with backward, negative movement and prospective thought of future imagery concurred with forward, positive movement along the anterior-posterior plane.

While this behavioral relationship with time and direction provides some insight into the hidden processing of temporal information, the underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood. Temporal distance of thought, that is, how far mentally back or forward in time, is thought to affect spatial magnitude of the postural sway in addition to actual direction. So the next time you take a trip down memory lane, your mind won’t be the only thing wandering!

To read more, see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121135859.htm and http://pss.sagepub.com/content/21/2/222.

SOURCE: Lynden K. Miles, Louise K. Nind, and C. Neil Macrae. Moving Through Time. Psychological Science, 2010

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