Editorial: Time perspective in learning, developmental, and interpersonal contexts



    Corresponding author
    1. Osaka Kyoiku University
      Toshiaki Shirai, Faculty of Education, Osaka Kyoiku University, Asahigaoka, Kashiwara 582-8582, Japan. (E-mail: shirai@cc.osaka-kyoiku.ac.jp)
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    • I want to thank Professor Willy Lens, Professor Manabu Tsuzuki, Professor Hiroyuki Shimizu, Professor Naoko Sonoda, Professor Yasushi Ohashi, and Associate Professor Matsuko Kashio for their suggestions in organizing this special issue.

Toshiaki Shirai, Faculty of Education, Osaka Kyoiku University, Asahigaoka, Kashiwara 582-8582, Japan. (E-mail: shirai@cc.osaka-kyoiku.ac.jp)

What is time perspective?

This special issue focuses on time perspective, which is defined as the totality of an individual's views of his/her psychological past and future existing at a given time (Lewin, 1951). Some people are able to foresee the future implications of their present behavior very well, while others live “in the present” and do not anticipate the future consequences of their present activities as strongly. These individual differences can help to understand the dynamics of learning, motivation, development, wellbeing, and culture, which can be applied to educational and clinical practices and interventions. In times of uncertainty, which are not only due to economic and political crises, but also to natural disasters and atomic accidents such as the one that occurred on March 11, 2011 in Japan, the study of time perspective is expected to suggest new directions in our understanding of individuals' way of remembering their past, experiencing the present, and foreseeing the future. This special issue is a challenge to this task through the evolving research area of time perspective.

Time and place of this issue

Despite the fact that the concept of time perspective is familiar to many psychologists, it has not received adequate attention. I know of only one special issue on future orientation, which was edited by Gjesme and published in the International Journal of Psychology in 1983. It excluded a particular topic of the effects of time perspective on student motivation, which was edited by Kauffman and Husman and published in the Educational Psychology Review in 2004. Recently, however, there has been a growing international exchange, as demonstrated by the First International Conference of Time Perspective (ICTP) by Paixão and collaborators, which will be conducted at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, from September 5 to September 8, 2012. The conference coincides with the publication of this special issue in September 2012. This special issue aims to intrigue psychologists all over the world.

Japanese Psychological Research––the English-language journal of the Japanese Psychological Association––contributes to the international development of studies on time perspective. Japan may be one of those countries whose time perspective studies are the most popular internationally, in terms of both quantitative and qualitative features. The first meeting dealing with time perspective was held at the 54th Annual Convention of the Japanese Psychological Association in Tokyo in 1990, and since then such meetings have been held at the Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Developmental Psychology for almost every year from 1996 until now. One of the products of these meetings was A Guidebook for Time Perspective Study, published in 2007 (Tsuzuki & Shirai, 2007). This guidebook had an international orientation, as top researchers of time perspective from Belgium, Canada, Finland, and Poland were invited to contribute to this book. The Japan Society of Developmental Psychology published “Time and Human” as one of the volumes of Handbook of Developmental Science in 2011 (Japan Society of Developmental Psychology, 2011). This may indicate that the study of time perspective has been recognized in Japan.

Japanese interest in time perspective is rather unique in comparison with the traditional trend seen in Western countries. We are interested not only in the future, but also the past and the present. This may be due to cultural variation; while the West is likely to prefer the future, the East is likely to prefer the past and present. This Eastern bias may be owing to dealing equally with these three times: the past, present, and future. Then it may raise the question of how the past, present, and future mutually connect with each other to influence human behavior. Therefore, it is noted that Japanese research on time perspective has interdisciplinary collaboration with studies of domains such as memory as a type of past perspective. Hence, this special issue includes a study on autobiographical memory.

Impact on learning and motivation

It may not be well known outside the research area of time perspective that such studies have come to construct theoretical models on future time perspective (FTP) theory (Lens, 1986; Nuttin & Lens, 1985) and the three-component future orientation model (Seginer, 2009). While the latter model engages in an examination of the link among cognition, motivation, and behavior mainly to explain adolescent development, the former theory focuses on the impact of FTP on student motivation.

In this issue, Lens, Paixão, Herrera, and Grobler (2012) discuss the concept of FTP as a cognitive-motivational construct based on the FTP theory. By setting goals in the near or more distant future, human beings develop their individual FTPs, which can be characterized by their content (i.e., what people are striving for) and extension or depth (i.e., how far into the future individuals set their goals). Individual differences in the content and extension of FTP have motivational consequences. Peetsma, Schuitema, and Van der Veen (2012) support the FTP theory by showing that positive relations were found, in the first years of secondary education in the Netherlands, among the emphasis placed on the relevance of learning, development of students' perspectives on school and professional career, and delay of gratification. Hilpert, Husman, Stump, Kim, Chung, and Duggan (2012) also provide evidence to support the FTP theory by showing (a) the top-down, domain-general to context-sensitive relationship between FTP variables and student learning behavior, and (b) that students' use of knowledge-building strategies is influenced by both domain-general aspects of FTP and the perceived endogenous instrumentality of coursework among engineering students of a large university in the United States.

Long-term dynamics of development

Currently, developmental studies of time perspective may illustrate long-term trajectories and individual differences in the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Tsuzuki (2012) investigates, in Japan, individual differences in trajectories of hope during the transition from elementary to junior high school using seven waves of longitudinal data. He argues that the type of trajectory with increments in hope shows an increase in self-esteem and peer support, whereas the type with decrements in hope shows a decrease in self-esteem; however, there was no difference found with respect to academic achievement between these types. Marttinen and Salmela-Aro (2012) examine, among 17-year-old adolescents in Finland, different kinds of orientations that can be identified according to adolescents' personal goals and how these orientations differ in their influence on subjective well-being. They show that adolescents in the self-orientation group are the most burned out, have the most symptoms of depression, and the lowest life satisfaction and self-esteem compared with other orientations. Shirai, Nakamura, and Katsuma (2012) propose a balanced time orientation, a time orientation with which an individual not only pursues a future goal, but also combines it with living fully in the present. Their long-term longitudinal study indicates that a balanced time orientation can contribute to identity development in emerging adulthood in Japan.

Time perspectives in interpersonal contexts

Recently, the study of time perspective has been expanding to include interpersonal and intergenerational contexts in order to clarify the interdependence of the past, present, and future. Ishino and Shimizu (2012) examine the relation between autobiographical memory and FTP among undergraduates in Japan and reveal that they are strongly related to participants' feelings of entrusting their dreams to others. Kashio (2012) investigates the relation between time perspective and motivation in interpersonal contexts. She shows that, among university and nursing school students in Japan, emotional support predicts hope, fulfillment, and acceptance of the past, while competitive achievement predicts the lack of both goal pursuit and fulfillment. Thus, memory and the past have an impact on the future and vice versa by means of interpersonal relationships in terms of the direction of influence.

Another aspect of the impact of time perspective is examined by Seginer and Shoyer (2012). They present data to expand our knowledge on the effect of parents on adolescents' future orientation. They describe, among Israeli Jewish 11th-grade girls and boys and their mothers, the indirect effect (via adolescents' self-esteem) of the future orientation that mothers construct for their adolescent children on the adolescents' future orientation. This study also supports the three-component future orientation model, which suggests that future orientation consists of three components: motivation, cognitive representation, and behavioral engagement (Seginer, 2009).


Thus, the study of time perspective has been expanding to connect research fields such as motivation, identity formation, parent-child relationships, transition to adulthood, educational and clinical interventions, and cultural and socio-historical processes. In this line, much attention should be paid to the estimation of the present context and past time perspectives based on FTPs. I hope that this special issue can stimulate a new trend of study in the area of time perspective.