Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Melvin Ng on 15 May


Speaker: Mr. Melvin Ng

Title: The Past and Future are in Your Hands: How Gestures Affect Our Understanding of Temporal Concepts

Date: Friday, 15 May, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Spatial metaphors are commonly used by individuals to represent and reason about time in daily conversations. In English, such spatial metaphors are arranged primarily along the sagittal axis. These metaphors are often paired with gestures that reveal the possible axes along which our internal conceptualisation of time may be aligned against. Previous experimental investigations have commonly found that time is represented along the lateral axis in English speakers, despite an absence of metaphors arraying time along this axis. One of the issues faced by such investigations is the usage of a forced spatialization of responses as proxy to investigate space-time associations in the mind. The usage of such specific motor responses may compel participants to adopt these convenient frames for temporal representation transiently. As such, their findings could have been a result of their experimental methodology, rather than how individuals actually represent time in their minds. The present study attempts to use gestures as primes to investigate how English-Mandarin bilinguals conceptualize time by tapping on their temporal concepts directly. Participants were required to make temporal classifications of words after watching a gestural prime. Results from our experiments into the lateral and sagittal planes revealed effects of congruency along the sagittal axis, but not the lateral axis. This suggests that individuals primarily represent time most strongly along the sagittal axis when not constrained by a particular response format. Implications for models of how individuals represent time as well as methods of investigating how time is represented in the mind are discussed.

About the Speaker:

Melvin Ng is a Masters candidate pursuing his M.Soc.Sci at the Department of Psychology at NUS under the supervision of Dr Winston Goh. His main research examines how gestures may serve as a means by which to access cognitive representations in the mind.

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