Volume 20, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-9751
  • E-ISSN: 1877-976X
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Accumulating evidence over the last two decades has established that people represent elapsing time along a horizontal or a vertical mental time line (MTL). A recent research (Hartmann et al., 2014) discovered an additional diagonal MTL which develops from bottom left to top right. The present study sought to extend Hartmann et al.’s (2014) work by exploring if the particular representations of diagonal time lines vary across cultures. Two experiments which recruited English and Arabic speakers as participants were conducted. The experimental setups measured participants’ space-time mappings along the bottom-left/top-right, top-left/bottom-right, bottom-right/top-left and top-right/bottom-left axes. Converging evidence demonstrates that there are indeed cross-cultural differences in mental representations of diagonal time lines. While English speakers displayed a salient propensity to conceive of time as oriented from bottom left to top right, Arabic speakers favored a time line unfolding from bottom right to top left. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to investigate if diagonal MTLs are cross-culturally represented. Findings of the present study add to existing literature by highlighting the important role of cultural artifacts such as writing direction in structuring people’s MTLs. Writing directions not only bring about cross-cultural discrepancies in space-time associations along the horizontal axis (e.g., left-to-right for English speakers and right-to-left for Arabic speakers), but also affect the creation of culturally specific concepts of diagonal time lines.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Arabic; cross-cultural difference; English; mental time line; writing direction
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