ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

心理科学进展 ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (1): 138-150.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.00138

• 研究前沿 • 上一篇    下一篇


李小保1,2, 于旭晨2, 吕厚超2()   

  1. 1河南大学教育学部, 开封 475004
    2西南大学心理学部, 时间心理学研究中心, 重庆400715
  • 收稿日期:2023-08-29 出版日期:2024-01-15 发布日期:2023-10-25
  • 通讯作者: 吕厚超
  • 基金资助:
    国家社科基金重大项目(22&ZD184);重庆市社会科学规划重点项目(2021NDZD09);重庆市教育科学 “十四五”规划课题重点项目(2021-GX-003);河南省教师教育课程改革研究项目(2023-JSJYYB-006)

Balanced time perspective and mental health: Mechanisms and theoretical framework

LI Xiaobao1,2, YU Xuchen2, LYU Houchao2()   

  1. 1Faculty of Education, Henan University, Kaifeng 475004, China
    2Faculty of Psychology, Time Psychology Research Center, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China
  • Received:2023-08-29 Online:2024-01-15 Published:2023-10-25
  • Contact: LYU Houchao


时间洞察力(Time perspective, TP)是个体分类、组织、管理人生和社会经验的必要心理时间框架。在当今快节奏和高竞争性的社会中, 寻求过去、现在和未来时间洞察力之间的平衡被认为是优化个体社会适应、提升幸福和促进心理健康的重要方式。然而, 由于概念取向模糊、测量方法局限等, 现有平衡时间洞察力与心理健康的关系研究较为繁杂, 作用机制尚不明确, 且缺乏宏观角度上的理论框架。通过对现存研究的梳理, 从平衡时间洞察力的不同概念取向入手, 整合形成平衡时间洞察力的双通道理论模型, 包含时间转换取向与总体健康取向平衡时间洞察力对心理健康的直接与间接作用路径, 以及潜在的边界条件。未来研究应区分平衡时间洞察力的不同概念取向, 并分别进行拓展研究, 着重发展时间转换取向平衡时间洞察力的测量手段, 深化中国文化背景下平衡时间洞察力与心理健康的理论研究和实证探索。

关键词: 时间洞察力, 平衡时间洞察力, 心理健康


Time Perspective is a crucial psychological framework that allows individuals to classify, organize, and manage their life and social experiences, describing how individuals view their past, present, and future. Recent research suggests that achieving a balance between the past, present, and future time perspectives is essential for optimizing social adaptation, facilitating well-being, and promoting mental health. Thus, much attention has been paid to the relationships between balanced time perspective (BTP) and mental health. However, the theoretical framework and underlying mechanisms linking BTP to mental health remain unclear due to the lack of clarity in its concept and limited measurement methods. Our review aims to clarify the conceptual orientations of BTP and explore the underlying mechanisms between BTP and mental health.

The concept of BTP is developed based on time perspective research, specifically according to Zimbardo Time Perspective Theory. This theory suggests that time perspective is an individual’s adaptive process of external social and cultural environment. And different time perspectives may lead to various behavioral decisions and mental health outcomes. There are five common time perspectives, including Past Positive (viewing the past in a positive light), Past Negative (viewing the past in a negative attitude), Present Hedonistic (a preference for immediate gratification), Present Fatalistic (a helpless and fatalistic outlook of life), and Future (a tendency to plan for the future). All of these time perspectives are evidently associated with happiness-related variables. In contrast to a specific temporal bias, the idea of a balanced time perspective is proposed to optimize individuals’ well-being and mental health.

Based on the existing literature, this review first distinguished two conceptual orientations of BTP. One is the “time shift orientation” BTP, which is defined as the cognitive process or mental ability to effectively switch between different time perspectives based on situational demands. The other is “general healthy orientation” BTP, which combines high level of adaptive time perspectives (e.g., Past Positive, Future, and Present Hedonistic) with low levels of maladaptive time perspectives (e.g., Past Negative and Present Fatalistic), reflecting an overall positive outlook on subjective time. The former is a theoretical concept with limited research on measuring the process or capacity of switching between time perspectives. The latter is the dominant focus of current research, and the existing scales and methods of BTP are all designed to assess the general healthy orientation toward the past, the present, and the future.

Our review also proposed a dual-pathway theoretical framework to clarify the direct and indirect paths between BTP and mental health. The direct pathway emphasizes the direct effect of habitual temporal cognitive processes on mental health. The indirect pathway highlights the role of BTP in influencing adaptive behaviors, which in turn affect mental health. In terms of the time shift orientation BTP, higher BTP requires individuals to effectively switch between time perspectives. Such a switching capacity might help individuals to have greater psychological and social adaptation. Additionally, higher BTP enables individuals to better observe and evaluate environmental characteristics, thereby inhibiting maladaptive time perspectives and exhibiting adaptive time perspectives. This necessitates strong self-regulation abilities in individuals. Therefore, the self-regulation process, including self-control and flexible selection of emotional regulation strategies, may serve as underlying mechanisms linking time shift orientation BTP and mental health. Regarding the general healthy orientation, the higher the BTP is, the more likely individuals are to positively think about the past, experience the present, and anticipate the future, resulting in good mental health. For instance, recalling past positive experiences and anticipating positive future events can directly facilitate life satisfaction and positive emotions. Conversely, viewing the past and future from a negative perspective is easy to induce negative emotions. General healthy orientation BTP can also indirectly promote mental health through a range of adaptive behaviors. For example, individuals with high levels of adaptive time perspectives (e.g., Past Positive and Future) tend to have more adaptive behaviors such as planning, healthy eating, exercise, and environmental protection. On the contrary, individuals higher on Past Negative and Present Fatalistic are likely to exhibit problematic behaviors such as aggression and substance abuse. These behaviors can further promote or damage mental health. In addition, the dual-pathway model also discussed the potential moderating role of age and life environment between BTP and mental health. Future research should aim to clearly distinguish between these different conceptual orientations of BTP, focus on developing measurement methods for time shift orientation BTP, and deepen both theoretical and empirical exploration of BTP and mental health, particularly within the context of Chinese culture.

Key words: time perspective, balanced time perspective, mental health