“HERE and now”, “Back in the 1950s”, “Going forward”… Western languages are full of spatial metaphors for time, and whether you are, say, British, French or German, you no doubt think of the past as behind you and the future as stretching out ahead. Time is a straight line that runs through your body.
Once thought to be universal, this “embodied cognition of time” is in fact strictly cultural. Over the past decade, encounters with various remote tribal societies have revealed a rich diversity of the ways in which humans relate to time (see “Attitudes across the latitudes”). The latest, coming from the Yupno people of Papua New Guinea, is perhaps the most remarkable. Time for the Yupno flows uphill and is not even linear.
Over in Australia, the timeline of the Pormpuraaw, a remote Aboriginal community, runs along the east-west axis. The past is east. Time for the Pormpuraaw flows from left to right if they are facing south, right to left if they are facing north, towards the body if they are facing east, and away from the body if they are facing west (Psychological Science, DOI: 10.1177/0956797610386621).
Read the whole story: New Scientist
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