It’s About Time

Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough. — George Bernard Shaw

The following is not a riddle; there is no “clever answer” at the end of it. Simply respond (mentally or to your computer screen) with the first answer that comes to mind:

Imagine you have a meeting scheduled for next Wednesday. The meeting is moved forward two days. Which day is the meeting on?

clock-150In case you suffered severe head trauma between paragraphs, or you didn’t really believe me (totally understandable but nonetheless offensive), there is no “right” answer to that question. Well, that’s not true. There are two right answers to that question:

Monday or Friday. However, whichever one you initially chose reflects a bit of your perception of the world.

Over here in the social psychology department, mind games are bandied about with every greeting. You can’t get up to go to the bathroom without wondering if someone had mentally primed you or imposed the reactance effect, all in attempt to make you exit so he or she can talk about you behind your back.

But with this particular question, I am merely testing your temporal perception.

Dr. Petty's Lab

Dr. Petty’s Lab

Because “moved forward” is an ambiguous term, both Monday or Friday are logical responses; however, your selection carries quite varying implications.

If you chose Monday, you see time as an object of motion rather than the self. Time is perceived as a river running toward you. Rather than you moving forward through time, you see it coming at you (hence, you saw the meeting moving toward you rather than away).

If you chose Friday, you see the self as moving through time. Under this viewpoint, the river is running away from you. Rather than waiting for time to come to you, you actively seek control of it (hence, the meeting moved ahead like an object you chase).

Regardless of which day you selected, there are positives and negatives to both. If you take too much control of time, it puts undue stress on your expectations. If you don’t take control of time enough, you may be too passive, waiting for things to happen to you rather than seeking them out yourself.

Amazing how a simple question like that can reveal something so pertinent about you.

And this is only my second week here.




Author: jdt

Jake writes weekly posts every Wednesday on the intersection of psychology and philosophy. To learn more about him, or to propose a topic you'd like him to cover, go to

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