Space and time in the sighted and blind


Cognition, 141, 67-72


April, 2015


Bottini, R., Crepaldi, D., Casasanto, D., Crollen, V., Collignon, O.

Across many cultures people conceptualize time as extending along a horizontal Mental Time Line (MTL). This spatial mapping of time has been shown to depend on experience with written text, and may also depend on other graphic conventions such as graphs and calendars. All of this information is typically acquired visually, suggesting that visual experience may play an important role in the development of the MTL. Do blind people develop a MTL? If so, how does it compare with the MTL in sighted? In this study we tested early blind, late blind and sighted participants in a space-time congruity task. Participants had to classify temporal words by pressing a right and a left key, either with crossed or uncrossed hands. We found that the MTL develops in the absence of vision, and that it is based on the same external frame of reference in sighted and blind people. Reading braille may provide the same experiential link between space and time in the manual modality as reading printed text provides in the visual modality. These results showing a similar MTL in sighted and blind participants contrast with previous results showing that the Mental Number Line (MNL) depends on different spatial coordinates in the sighted and the blind, and suggest that spatial representations of time and number may have different experiential bases.