The Problem and the Measurement of Time in Psychology (1874–1910)
- Silvia DegniSilvia DegniUniversita degli Studi Niccolo Cusano, Department of Psychology
The problem of time in psychology, which first became the object of attention and investigation by scientific psychology concerning the aspect of temporal measurement of mental processes, has been addressed since the early 20th century with regard to the perception of time, also called the subjective experience of time. The reaction time paradigm, defined as the minimum time between the presentation of a stimulus and the participant’s response to it, is closely related to the birth of experimental psychology. The determination of an objective parameter of the speed of the nerve impulse, therefore, represented the initial purpose of the psychochronometric studies. Defining the object of study for experimental psychology as immediate conscious experience or subjective experience of consciousness has led psychologists to reflect on the distinction between physical time and psychological time—a distinction already present in the philosophical field—and to analyze the latter in all its manifestations through sophisticated and complex experimental investigations. Psychologists, although aware of the reflections on time developed by philosophical doctrines and prepared to take these into account, generally tried to steer clear of the questions relating to the typical problems of philosophy—the nature of the idea of time and its corresponding reality—preferring to concentrate their analysis on the subjective experience of time. In relation to the different varieties of the temporal experience, experiments have been conceived and set up to analyze, measure, and precisely define them using the psychophysical and psychophysiological research paradigm. Between the end of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century researches concerning perception of the present, simultaneity, succession, instant, and time interval were developed.