Multi-directional mappings in the minds of the Tsimane’: Size, time, and number on three spatial axes

AbstractFrom early in life, people implicitly associate time, number, and other abstract conceptual domains with space. According to the Generalized Magnitude System proposal, these mental mappings reflect a common neural system for representing various magnitudes, and share a common spatial organization. To test this proposal, here we measured the space-size, space-time, and space-number associations in the Tsimane', an indigenous Amazonian culture with few of the cultural practices (like reading and math) that spatialize size, time, and number in the experience of industrialized adults. On all three spatial axes, the Tsimane’ systematically arranged imagistic stimuli according to their magnitudes, but they showed no directional preferences overall and individuals often mapped different domains in opposite directions. The results are inconsistent with the Generalized Magnitude System proposal but can be explained by Hierarchical Mental Metaphor Theory, according to which mental mappings initially reflect the multi-directional correlations observable in the natural world.

Return to previous page