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WIREs Cogn Sci
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It is about time: Conceptual and experimental evaluation of the temporal cognitive mechanisms in mental time travel

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Abstract Mental time travel (MTT) is the ability that allows humans to mentally project themselves backwards in time to remember past events (i.e., episodic memory) or forwards in time to imagine future events (i.e., future thinking). Despite empirical evidence showing that animals might possess MTT abilities, some still claim that this ability is uniquely human. Recent debates have suggested that it is the temporal cognitive mechanism (i.e., ability to represent the sense of past and future) that makes MTT uniquely human. Advances in the field have been constrained by a lack of comparative data, methodological shortcomings that prevent meaningful comparisons, and a lack of clear conceptualizations of the temporal cognitive mechanism. Here I will present a comprehensive review into MTT in humans and animals—with a particular focus on great apes. I will examine three of the most prominent and influential theoretical models of human MTT. Drawing on these accounts, I suggest that a basic way of understanding time might be shared across species, however culture and language will play a critical role at shaping the way we elaborate mental representations about past and future events. This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition Psychology > Comparative Psychology

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Psychology > Comparative Psychology
Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition

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