Cultural Perceptions of Time

19Jan 2022 by

Being time conscious can work in your favor when interacting with other people who see time the same way. How does it work when cultures mix? Recall the Learning Resources this week that address what can be dramatic differences in cultural perceptions of time, including what it means to be “on time” and sensitivities around deciding with whom and where time should be spent.
Even if you have never offended others, or been offended, by a different idea of time, chances are you have experienced more subtle cultural differences in perceptions of time. For example, consider friends who are chronically early or late, when you are the opposite. How might culture explain those differences in perceptions of time?
For the Discussion this week, you will explore the role culture plays in perception, different attitudes toward time, and your personal experiences with these concepts—including how what you learned this week has influenced your understanding of time.
To prepare:

Review the Week 2 Learning Resources that focus on time. In particular, pay attention to Chapter 4 and the section on “Perception of Time” in the course text.
Reflect on your experiences with different perceptions of time. Use the information and examples in the Learning Resources to help you recall relevant situations. Think deeply to consider experiences you may not have connected to perception of “time,” such as visiting a place where people walk and talk at a different pace than you do, and how you viewed that difference.
Reflect on your perception of time before this week and how your work in Week 2 has influenced your thinking about time.
Review the Walden Writing Center resource on scholarly writing for help in preparing your post. Keep in mind that a general theme of this week is supporting your views with clear reasoning and evidence from the Learning Resources.

By Day 3

Post your response to the following:

Summarize your views on how culture affects perceptions of time and how cultural differences can impact interactions. Support your observations with examples from the Learning Resources and at least one relevant personal experience.
Explain how your views of time have changed through your coursework this week on cultural differences in perceptions of time.
Explain how you will apply your new insights and perceptions about time in current personal and professional relationships. Provide examples to explain your thinking.

Note: Be sure to support the responses within your initial Discussion post (and in your colleague reply) with information obtained from the assigned Learning Resources, including a reference list for sources used. For information regarding how your Discussion will be evaluated, please review the grading rubric located in the Course Information area of the course.

From My textbook 
 Perception of Time

Nothing really belongs to us but time, which even he has who has nothing else.
Baltasar Gracian (1601–1658)—Spanish writer and Jesuit priest

Talk to several people who have traveled or lived abroad. They could tell you how people in different cultures perceive and treat time guidelines. One of our colleagues from the Caribbean jokingly said that on his island people are generally not in a hurry compared with people from the United States. It has long been suggested that Westerners tend to define punctuality using precise measures of time: 1 minute, 15 minutes, an hour, and so forth. In other, more traditional, cultures, time is measured by significantly longer intervals (Hall, 1959). Akbar (1991), who compared perceptions of time in European American and African cultures, also acknowledged Westerners’ emphasis on the precise measurement of time. He suggested that time in the European and North American cultures is treated as a commodity or product that can be bought and sold like any other item for consumption, whereas in the African system, time is not viewed as a commodity. These days, however, information technology and global travel are making time perception worldwide more uniform.
Affluence may have something to do with the way we treat time. Hamermesh (2003) conducted a cross-cultural analysis of affluent people in the United States, Germany, Australia, Canada, and South Korea. The study showed that across cultures, people express dissatisfaction about the lack of time they experience as their incomes rise. As people’s wealth increases, so do the number of opportunities available to them. As this demand increases, however, the “supply” of time does not grow. Therefore, time becomes more valuable, and people become increasingly frustrated about the lack of it.
In studies published over an extended period (Abou-Hatab, 1997; Meleis, 1982), researchers paid attention to this interesting aspect of Arab culture: its less-structured time orientation than one developed in most individuals in Western cultures. For example, individuals of Arab descent in traditional settings may display a tendency to be more interested in and focused on events or circumstances that are present or occurring now and may pay less attention to those expected or scheduled to happen sometime in the future. Some studies suggest that this tendency in perception of time may have an impact on how patients or clients of Arab descent perceive their tasks during therapy. Some of them may need extra effort from the therapist to accept a particular timetable for behavioral or cognitive changes (Erickson & Al-Timimi, 2001). It is also important, though, to be cautious and not overgeneralize: Being Arab or Arab American does not mean one has a certain predetermined pattern of perception of time that is significantly different from other people’s perceptions.
There are different ways of arranging time in a definite order known as calendars. Most people on earth use the Gregorian calendar, which has a religious origin and, since its adoption in the sixteenth century, counts years since the incarnation of Jesus. Other major religions also have their own calendars. The first year of the Islamic calendar, for example, is the year when Mohammed moved from Mecca to Medina. In North Korea today, the official calendar starts on the birthday of the late communist leader Kim Il-sung in 1912. The official calendar of Taiwan also starts in 1912, the year of the founding of the Republic of China.
While in the Judeo-Christian tradition, life is represented linearly and its end is death, in Hinduism life is represented circularly; People live and die many times. The African time concept can be seen as very elastic and includes events that have already taken place, those that are taking place right now, and even those that will happen. Time can be experienced through one’s own individual life and through the life of the tribe to which each individual belongs (Nobles, 1991). In Swahili—the language widely used in Eastern and Central Africa—two words indicate time: sasa and zamani.The first word stands for the present and generates a sense of immediacy. The second one indicates the past but not merely as a “warehouse” of time. It is also a connector of individual souls. Most African peoples perceived human history in the natural rhythm of moving from sasa to zamani. The life cycle is renewable. After physical death, as long as a person is remembered by relatives and friends who knew her, this person would continue to exist in the sasadimension. When the last person who knew the deceased also dies, that means the end for that individual.
People of the Bun group in Papua New Guinea do not see their past as a series of interconnected events in a cause-and-effect chain. For them, change is always dramatic and complete. Discontinuity is a requirement of change. This concept of time affects social behavior. People have deep-seated expectations about how social change will take place. They expect dramatic revolutions when everything should change (McDowell, 1988).
Did you know that age and aging might be related to an individual’s perspective of time, at least in people of the industrial world? In turn, this changing individual time perspective may impact many other personal attitudes (Cutler, 1975). Perhaps for most people, in early childhood, the dominant perception is that time is limitless. Early adulthood brings the realization that time is a scarce resource. Middle age and later stages lead to the perception that time becomes seriously limited. As Gergen and Black (1965) pointed out, orientations toward problem solving in international politics are substantially related to one’s psychological perception of personal future time: Older politicians may be in a “hurry” to resolve conflicts. Renshon (1989) also argued that in the arts, the phenomenon of late-age creativity and boldness occurs relatively often. The last works of Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Verdi, Beethoven, Tolstoy, and Picasso all suggest that the final stages of the life cycle often bring release from conventional concerns and free artists to make major creative statements that represent a culmination of their vision.
Various authors have reported about a seemingly cross-cultural tendency: People notice an apparent accelerating of self-reflected time flow experienced with age. In diaries, self-observations, personal recollections, and other sources, many older people notice that time runs faster now than it did when they were younger. These observations, however, are subjective and were not verified in experiments. Laboratory studies that measured the impact of age on the perception of time intervals, however, are so far few and inconsistent in their results (Wearden et al., 1997).

Shiraev, E. B., & Levy, D. A. (2017). Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

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