The meandering mind: vection and mental time travel

Lynden K Miles, Katarzyna Karpinska, Joanne Lumsden, C Neil Macrae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)
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The ability to travel mentally through time sets humans apart from many other species, yet little is known about this core cognitive capacity. In particular, what shapes the passage of the mind's journey through time? Guided by the viewpoint that higher cognitive activity can have a sensory-motor grounding, we explored the possibility that mental time travel is influenced by apparent movement through space.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Participants performed a mundane vigilance task, during which they were expected to daydream, while viewing a display that elicited an illusion of self-motion (i.e., vection). Afterwards, the contents of their mind wandering experiences were probed. The results revealed that the direction of apparent motion influenced the temporal focus of mental time travel. While backward vection prompted thinking about the past, forward vection triggered a preponderance of future-oriented thoughts.

Consistent with recent evidence that traveling mentally through time entails associated movements in space, the current results demonstrate the converse relationship—apparent movement through space influenced the temporal locus of mental activity. Together, these findings corroborate the viewpoint that mental time travel may be grounded in the embodiment of spatiotemporal information in a bidirectional manner.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10825
Number of pages5
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2010


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