Motivation and emotion/Tutorials/Time perspective

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Tutorial 10: Time perspective

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This is the tenth tutorial for the motivation and emotion unit of study.

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Did you know that anyone can travel through time, simply by using their imagination?

This tutorial is about the psychology of time and, more specifically, Zimbardo's model of time perspective and how it relates to motivation and emotion.

Time perspective[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. People unconsciously adopt different time perspectives - whether past, present, or future.

Our lives are unconsciously influenced by our cognitions about time. By understanding this, we can optimise our time perspective to become more effective in our lives.

What is time perspective?[edit | edit source]

Did you know that we can travel through time?

It is actually very simple to do and we do it all the time.

For example, close your eyes and think about what happened:

  • 10 minutes ago
  • yesterday
  • many years ago

Similarly, you can imagine multiple possible futures.

So, time perspective (TP) is how we think about time and can be broadly divided into:

  • Past
  • Present
  • Future

ZTPI[edit | edit source]

Complete the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI), then discuss the theory and class results.

  • ZTPI (56 out of the 61 items count towards the 5 factors; 5 are filler items).
  • Enter your 5 factor scores into this Google Form

Factors[edit | edit source]

TP can be further conceptualised in terms of the type of thoughts we have about our past, present, and future (see Figure 1).

Figure 2. Six possible time perspective factors, based on Zimbardo (2009).

For more information, see an overview of time perspective types (

Principles[edit | edit source]

Key principles:

  • TP influences thoughts, feelings, and behaviour unconsciously
  • Each TP has benefits, but excesses create negative consequences
  • TPs are learned through personal experience

ZTPI scores[edit | edit source]

Compare your ZTPI scores with the:

  • Norms:
    • Past Negative (Mdn = 3.00)
    • Past Positive (Mdn = 3.22)
    • Present Fatalism (Mdn = 2.33)
    • Present Hedonism (Mdn = 3.93)
    • Future (Mdn = 3.38)
  • Ideal profile
    • Past Positive - High (like your past)
    • Present Hedonism - Moderate (choose when to select pleasure in the present) [1]
    • Future - Moderately high (work for the future)
  • Worst profile:
    • Past Negative - High
    • Present Fatalism - High
    • = living in a negative past and believing you can do nothing to change it[2]

Video[edit | edit source]

Does the name, Philip Zimbardo ring a bell?

It should for psychology students!

Maybe something about a prison experiment?

Yes, in the early 1970s Zimbardo decided to tackle a fundamental question that had plagued psychologists since World War II - are humans fundamentally evil - or do extreme circumstances mean that normal people can be made to act inhumanely?

More info: Stanford prison experiment

But fast forward and Zimbardo has worked on many other areas, including more recently, time perspective.

Watch and discuss: Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time (Phillip Zimbardo, 6:31 min, TED talk, 2009)

Books[edit | edit source]

Zimbardo's two books on this topic are:

Project work[edit | edit source]

Book chapter development guided by student questions

Recording[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Book chapters
Lectures and tutorials

References[edit | edit source]

Zimbardo, P. G. & Boyd, J. N. (2009). The time paradox: Using the new psychology of time to your advantage. Free Press.

Zimbardo, P. G., Sword, R. M., & Sword, R. K. M. (2012). The time cure: Overcoming PTSD with the new psychology of time perspective therapy. Jossey-Bass.