The development of temporal concepts: Learning to locate events in time

Teresa McCormack, Christoph Hoerl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
341 Downloads (Pure)


A new model of the development of temporal concepts is described that assumes that there are substantial changes in how children think about time in the early years. It is argued that there is a shift from understanding time in an event-dependent way to an event-independent understanding of time. Early in development, very young children are unable to think about locations in time independently of the events that occur at those locations. It is only with development that children begin to have a proper grasp of the distinction between past, present, and future, and represent time as linear and unidirectional. The model assumes that although children aged 2 to 3 years may categorize events differently depending on whether they lie in the past or the future, they may not be able to understand that whether an event is in the past or future is something that changes as time passes and varies with temporal perspective. Around 4 to 5 years, children understand how causality operates in time, and can grasp the systematic relations that obtain between different locations in time, which provides the basis for acquiring the conventional clock and calendar system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-327
JournalTiming and Time Perception
Publication statusPublished - 08 Dec 2017


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