Without taking a single psychology course, ordinary people learn to understand, predict, and explain one another’s actions, thoughts, and motivations. Many cognitive scientists and philosophers claim that our everyday or folk understanding of mental states constitutes a theory of mind. That theory is widely called folk psychology (sometimes commonsense psychology). The terms in which folk psychology are couched are familiar ones of ‘belief’ and ‘desire,’ ‘hunger,’ ‘pain,’ and so forth. According to many theorists, folk psychology plays a central role in our capacity to predict and explain the behavior of ourselves and of others. This book has two goals: (a) to provide a framework for analyzing folk psychologies, and (b) to describe multiple forms that folk psychologies assume in different cultures.
Chapter 11: Time and the Life Span
Time and the Life Span
What is the nature of historical time and of the human life span?
Conceptions of historical time and of the human life span can vary from one culture to another, with those variations bearing important implications for how people think about life and for how they behave. The following discussion begins with alternative versions of historical time, continues with varied conceptions of the life span, and closes with an example of the effect of cultural change on notions of time and the life span.
Versions of Historical Time
In cultures that trace their roots to Europe (typically referred to as Western cultures), historical time is conceived to be linear, portrayed as a straight, unbroken line extending from the past ...