Does time fly when you’re having fun, or do you?

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When describing the passage of time, people metaphorically assign the agency for temporal change to themselves (e.g., we are approaching the weekend) or an event (the weekend is approaching). Embodiment theory suggests that temporal agency assignments reflect conceptual correspondences between time, motion, and emotion, whereby people symbolically move toward affectively positive events but passively observe the arrival of negative events. This article reports three studies testing these theoretical claims. Analyses of large spoken and written English corpora (Study 1) and solicited accounts of positive and negative experiences (Study 2) indicated that communicators prefer to assign temporal agency to themselves when describing positive events but to events when describing negative events. Study 3 demonstrated that temporal agency assignments have attributional consequences, in that they colored participants’ perceptions of a fictitious speaker’s affective orientation toward a described event. Implications of these findings for the study of temporal communication are discussed.

Source: “Does Time Fly When You’re Having Fun, or Do You? Affect, Agency, and Embodiment in Temporal Communication” from Journal of Language and Social Psychology

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