Putting Time in Perspective: A Valid, Reliable Individual-Differences Metric

Authors: Philip G. Zimbardo, Stanford University; John N. Boyd, Stanford University

Publication: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Year: 1999

Focus Area: Profile, Prevention, Emotion, Decision Making

Relevance: An accurate assessment of time perspective, a process that influences decision making, could help identify characteristics of fraud victims that make them particularly vulnerable to scams. This information would allow prevention programs to tailor education techniques to the needs of vulnerable groups and teach skills that encourage people to use the appropriate time perspective.

Summary: Time perspective (TP) is a learned, unconscious process that people use to mentally sort and organize experiences. Time perspectives influence decision making, but this influence often goes unnoticed because time perspective is so pervasive in daily life. This paper presents a questionnaire designed to allow measurement and comparison of time perspective.

  • There are five components of time perspective: past-negative, present-hedonistic, future, past-positive, and present-fatalistic.
  • A “balanced TP” allows an individual to shift between TPs depending on the situation. Over-reliance on one particular time perspective can lead people to make bad decisions.

Author Abstract: Time perspective (TP), a fundamental dimension in the construction of psychological, time, emerges from cognitive processes partitioning human experience into past, present, and future temporal frames. The authors’ research program proposes that TP is a pervasive and powerful yet largely unrecognized influence on much human behavior. Although TP variations are learned and modified by a variety of personal, social, and institutional influences, TP also functions as an individual-differences variable. Reported is a new measure assessing personal variations in TP profiles and specific TP “biases.” The 5 factors of the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory were established through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses and demonstrate acceptable internal and test-retest reliability. Convergent, divergent, discriminant, and predictive validity are shown by correlational and experimental research supplemented by case studies.

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