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Time Perception in Development  

Yarden Kedar

Time is an abstract, unobservable, multifaceted, and elusive concept, whose nature has long posited a major challenge in philosophical and scientific thought. Nonetheless, despite the fact that time is not directly perceived by our senses, a universal human experience of time does exist. People are aware of time passing by; seek ways to measure it; arrange their lives around different timelines; and constantly use verbal expressions referring to time. A key question in developmental science is when and how children develop a sense and a concept of time. Infants are equipped from birth with perceptual time-tracking mechanisms for detecting patterns and changes in the physical environment, and their biological clocks reach an adult-like level already at 3 months of age. Infants have been shown to accurately register the recency, duration, frequency, and rhythmic aspects of events. Infants also gradually become more attuned to inter-sensory (visual/auditory/tactile) temporal relations based on co-occurrences of synchrony, duration, rate, and rhythm. These early abilities establish the foundation for the emergence of a metacognitive awareness and conceptualization of time in later stages of development. Several cognitive components such as attention, memory, and language are crucial in producing and maintaining our subjective perception of time. Additional factors include the social and cultural practices of time, which determine our time perspective and time perception. Verbal interactions relating to time between parents and their children aid the child in grasping distinctions between the past, present, and future, and between proximate and remote past and future times.