(Subjective) Time Heals All Wounds: The Competing Roles of Objective and Subjective Time in Reactions to Past Events
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Science
Although folk wisdom states that “time heals all wounds,” the truth of this claim is questionable and may be contingent on the nature of time in question. People think about and represent time in different ways: they consider how far away events (objectively) are, as well as how close or far away they (subjectively) feel. How close or distant a temporal event feels from the present is quite malleable and can be affected by a host of psychological factors independent of chronological time. However, little research has explicitly investigated the extent to which objective, calendar time, and one’s subjective sense of time “heal all wounds.” We predicted that while the passage of objective time may help to alleviate distress about a past event to some degree, the feeling of subjective time from that event would predict emotional outcomes above and beyond any effect of objective time. That is, we expected that the “time heals all wounds” adage would be primarily true for subjective time. In four studies, we examine the contribution of these two representations of time in a variety of contexts, finding that in all studies, subjective time accounted for more variance than chronological distance from a past event as a predictor of present affect. Study 1a and 1b demonstrates how greater subjective distance predicts less intense present affect (over and above objective time) for both negative events (breakups, Study 1a) and positive events (birthdays, Study 1b). Study 2 explores how individual differences, such as attachment security, may act as antecedents of subjective time perception for a negative relational event, accounting for ways that subjective time diverges from objective time. The first three studies manipulated objective time and examined individual difference variance in subjective time; the final study manipulates both objective and subjective time. Study 3 establishes the causal link between subjective time and current affect, finding that experimentally induced subjective distance attenuates emotional intensity over and above objective distance. We discuss how the distinct roles of objective and subjective time can be important for understanding how individuals engage in psychological healing over time, as well as potential interpersonal and societal implications.
Williams, Sarah L., "(Subjective) Time Heals All Wounds: The Competing Roles of Objective and Subjective Time in Reactions to Past Events" (2020). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2241.