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   2012, Vol. 44 Issue (1) : 40-50     DOI:
Modality Specificity of Horizontal Metaphoric Representation of Time: A Comparison Study Between the Blind and Sighted People
(Center for Psychological Application, Department of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China)
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Abstract  The conceptualization of the abstract concept — "time" need to be grounded on a more concrete conceptual domain — "space". It has been demonstrated that this “left-past, right-future” representation of time is psychologically real, and the experience responsible for the representation of time is related to the exposure of participants to a left-to-right orthographic system. That is to say, the reading/writing directionality affects the representation of temporal sequences. There are two theories which try to explain this finding: the perceptual symbol theory and the propositional symbol theory. Perceptual symbol theory assures that the left-right mapping of time is perceptual, while propositional symbol theory assures that this mapping is linked to the abstract, amodal concept of time. The most substantial difference between these two theories is whether a perceptual facilitation effect with temporal words focuses on a specific modality. The present study aimed to test whether it could be accessed through auditory modalities.
Experiment 1 explored the modality specificity of horizontal metaphoric representation of time by the blind people who carried out a time nature judgement task on auditorily presented words referring either to the past or the future. A 2×2×2 repeated measure design was adopted with independent variables of temporal reference (past / future), target location (left / right) and response location (left / right).The results showed horizontal metaphoric representation of time only was observed at the motoric level of the blind people. The blind people were faster responding to past words or sentences with their left hands and to future words or sentences with their right hands. These results indicated that spatial information which was used to represent time was perceptual. Contrary to the reading directionality of the blind people, the writing directionality of the blind people is right-to-left. The results showed that the directionality of metaphoric representation of time was not coherent with the writing directionality of the blind people. It suggested that the sensory-motor experience was related to the reading habits of the blind people.
In Experiment 2, the sighted people were divided into two groups: the sighed group and the blindfolded group. The procedure of experiment 2 was the same as in experiment 1. A 2×2×2×2 mixed design was used. Two groups of participants differing in the spatial frame of reference showed different results. Only when the words were auditorily presented on the right side, did the blind-folded show the patterns of congruency between response side and temporal reference at the motoric level. This result further proved the positions of perceptual symbol theory.
It is well known that the spatial cognition of the blind people is different from the sighted ones. So, a comprehensive analysis of data of the two experiments above was made to test whether the three groups had different horizontal metaphoric representation of time. A 3×2×2×2 mixed design was used. The results of the blind people and sighted people were similar. Neither of them was affected by the auditory spatial information in the horizontal metaphoric representation of time, which suggested that the the spatial cognitive ability in the blind’s motoric modality compensated the loss of sight.
Keywords the blind people      horizontal metaphoric representation of time      modality specific      perceptual symbol systems     
Corresponding Authors: ZHANG Ji-Jia   
Issue Date: 28 January 2012
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ZHANG Ji-Jia,SONG Yi-Qi. Modality Specificity of Horizontal Metaphoric Representation of Time: A Comparison Study Between the Blind and Sighted People[J]. , 2012, 44(1): 40-50.
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