Article

It is about time: Conceptual and experimental evaluation of the temporal cognitive mechanisms in mental time travel

Citation

Martin-Ordas G (2020) It is about time: Conceptual and experimental evaluation of the temporal cognitive mechanisms in mental time travel. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 11 (6), Art. No.: e1530. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcs.1530

Abstract
Mental time travel (MTT) is the ability that allows humans to mentally project themselves backwards in time to remember past events (i.e., episodic memory) or forwards in time to imagine future events (i.e., future thinking). Despite empirical evidence showing that animals might possess MTT abilities, some still claim that this ability is uniquely human. Recent debates have suggested that it is the temporal cognitive mechanism (i.e., ability to represent the sense of past and future) that makes MTT uniquely human. Advances in the field have been constrained by a lack of comparative data, methodological shortcomings that prevent meaningful comparisons, and a lack of clear conceptualizations of the temporal cognitive mechanism. Here I will present a comprehensive review into MTT in humans and animals—with a particular focus on great apes. I will examine three of the most prominent and influential theoretical models of human MTT. Drawing on these accounts, I suggest that a basic way of understanding time might be shared across species, however culture and language will play a critical role at shaping the way we elaborate mental representations about past and future events.

Keywords
mental travel; time; evolution; great apes; time

Journal
Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science: Volume 11, Issue 6

StatusPublished
Publication date30/11/2020
Publication date online30/04/2020
Date accepted by journal04/04/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/31161
ISSN1939-5078
eISSN1939-5086