The Ego-Moving Metaphor of Time Relies on Visual Experience: No Representation of Time Along the Sagittal Space in the Blind

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Abstract

In many cultures, humans conceptualize the past as behind the body and the future as in front. Whether this spatial mapping of time depends on visual experience is still not known. Here, we addressed this issue by testing early-blind participants in a space–time motor congruity task requiring them to classify a series of words as referring to the past or the future by moving their hand backward or forward. Sighted participants showed a preferential mapping between forward movements and future-words and backward movements and past-words. Critically, blind participants did not show any such preferential time–space mapping. Furthermore, in a questionnaire requiring participants to think about past and future events, blind participants did not appear to perceive the future as psychologically closer than the past, as it is the case of sighted individuals. These findings suggest that normal visual development is crucial for representing time along the sagittal space.

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