The mental time line: An analogue of the mental number line in the mapping of life events

Shahar Arzy*, Esther Adi-Japha, Olaf Blanke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


A crucial aspect of the human mind is the ability to project the self along the time line to past and future. It has been argued that such self-projection is essential to re-experience past experiences and predict future events. In-depth analysis of a novel paradigm investigating mental time shows that the speed of this "self-projection" in time depends logarithmically on the temporal-distance between an imagined "location" on the time line that participants were asked to imagine and the location of another imagined event from the time line. This logarithmic pattern suggests that events in human cognition are spatially mapped along an imagery mental time line. We argue that the present time-line data are comparable to the spatial mapping of numbers along the mental number line and that such spatial maps are a fundamental basis for cognition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)781-785
Number of pages5
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Log
  • Mental number line
  • Mental time line
  • Self
  • Self-projection
  • Temporal distance
  • Time


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