Course Syllabus

Psychology of Time: Before, After, and In-Between

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2018 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Psychology, Sociology

Faculty Members:

Anna Sircova

Program Director:

Carla Caetano, Ph.D.

Program Assistant:

Aidan Mahony 


Time & Place:

Tuesday, 13.15-16.10 - N7-B11


Description of Course

The course focuses on temporal matters in a variety of areas, such as individual differences, social and clinical psychology, cross-cultural communication, and sustainability. It has two major parts: The first section focuses on the temporal aspects of individual behavior (such as use of time, pace of life, temporal orientations, motivation, etc.). The second part of the course covers temporal aspects of groups, i.e. temporal identity of groups and cultures, reactions to change and adaptation, collective actions, and role of time in solving social dilemmas.
More specifically, the course aims:
1) to introduce you to the exciting topic of psychological time,
2) to explore how it impacts our lives,
3) to critically evaluate theory, research and application in the field.

The assignments reflect these aims as you will conduct self-exploration assignments on what your own time perspective is, but also some observations and experiments on pace of life and “waiting time” that occurs in public space. The course also includes a participatory simulation, where we explore the group dynamics in a social dilemma (a critical situation with a limited energy resource), the roles individual time orientations play on the group decisions and their possible alternatives. The assignments will require that you include theory and research from class.


Learning Objectives

By the end of this course you will be:

    • able to critically describe and evaluate key areas of time theory, research and application

    • able to navigate through variety of time ‘languages’ and ‘landscapes’

    • able to demonstrate insight and awareness about your own temporal biases

    • able to include cultural considerations pertaining to time

    • able to work together with a team on finding a solution to a specific real-life challenge related to time.

    • inspired to create positive change



Anna Sircova, PhD in Psychology (Moscow City University of Psychology and Education, Russia, 2008). M.A. in clinical psychology (2000-2004, Moscow State University), post-doc at Umeå University, Sweden (2009-2012). Founder and Head of the Board at Time Perspective Network (2006 - present) and supervisor of BA, MA and PhD students. Owner of Creative Time Studio,  Copenhagen, Denmark. Her research interests are within psychological time (both of individual and of a group), cultures, design thinking, creativity, complex systems and social simulations. With DIS since 2014.



Required Textbook (available at DIS library):

Stolarski, Fieulaine & van Beek (eds) (2015). Time Perspective Theory; Review, Research and Application. Essays in Honor of Philip G. Zimbardo. Springer International Publishing.

Additional readings:

McGrath, Joseph E. Tschan, Franziska , (2004). Temporal matters in social psychology: Examining the role of time in the lives of groups and individuals. , (pp. 27-45). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association

Boyd, J.N., & Zimbardo, P.G. (2005). Time Perspective, Health, and Risk Taking, in A. Strathman and J. Joireman (eds) Understanding Behavior in the Context of Time: Theory, Research, and Application (pp.85-107).

Levine, R. V., & Norenzayan, A. (1999). The pace of life in 31 countries. Journal of cross-cultural psychology, 30(2), 178-205.
Jones, J. M., & Brown, W. T. (2005). Any time is Trinidad time! Cultural variations in the value and function of time. Understanding Behavior in the Context of Time: Theory, Research, and Application. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 305-323.

Sircova A, Karimi F, Osin EN, Lee S, Holme P, Strömbom D. (2015) Simulating Irrational Human Behavior to Prevent Resource Depletion. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0117612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117612

Russell, M. (2011). Watching passengers: Using structured observation methods on public transport.
Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide, Module 2, Participant Observation
Oslo University Hospital - Changing the lives of breast cancer patients -
Sarah Ruth Payne, Jamie Mackrill, Rebecca Cain, Jason Strelitz & Lucy Gate (2015) Developing interior design briefs for health-care and well-being centres through public participation, Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 11:4, 264-279, DOI:10.1080/17452007.2014.923288

Bakhtin, M. M. (1937). Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel: Notes toward a Historical Poetics. Narrative dynamics: Essays on time, plot, closure, and frames, 15-24.
Chapter 1 Borrowing Bakhtin in Valverde, M. (2015). Chronotopes of law: Jurisdiction, scale and governance. Routledge.pp.1-29.

Chen, M. Keith, The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets (December 12, 2012). Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1820. Available at SSRN: or
Time Talks: Interview with Nick Clements -

Hartocollis, P. (1975). Time and affect in psychopathology. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Vol 23(2), 1975, 383-395.

Boniwell, I., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2004). Balancing time perspective in pursuit of optimal functioning. Positive psychology in practice, 165-178.
Chapter 11: Resetting Your Psychological Clock. in The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd, 2008, pp. 295-311.

Wiberg, B., Sircova, A., Wiberg, M. & Carelli, M.G. (2017). Balanced Time Perspective: Developing Empirical Profile and Exploring Its Stability over Time. in Time Perspective: Theory and Practice. Palgrave, 2017, pp.63-95.


Field Studies / Seminar Night

Into Eternity - Danish documentary movie screening, presentation and debate with the film director, Michael Madsen

“Into Eternity” - documentary film screening with a follow-up debate with the director, Michael Madsen.

”A kind of time travel, where we will catapult the audience into a future that lies beyond our own time and civilisation. And from that place, we will then look back on the present.”

This is what director Michael Madsen says about ‘Into Eternity’, which starts in misty caves in Finland. The place is called Onkalo – the world’s first permanent depot, that is supposed to house the present’s highly radioactive waste. The depot is set to exist for 100,000 years – that’s how long the decomposition process takes.

But can one guarantee anything so far in the future? Which scenarios need to be incorporated? Michael Madsen elegantly counter poses the raw nature of Finland, the underground futurism, Kraftwerk’s ‘Radioactivity’ and ethical-philosophical considerations one doesn’t think about every day.


Guest Lecturers

Chris Crespo - Behavioural Economist, Chief Digital Strategist, Nordea

Siri Wolthoorn - Gaga teacher, dancer at the Recoil Performance Group, Batsheva Dance Company, Den Jyske Opera


Approach to Teaching

My overall philosophy can be summarized by the following quote: “Concepts can never be presented to me merely, they must be knitted into the structure of my being, and this can only be done through my own activity” (Follett, M.P. Creative Experience, 1930, p.151). Thus, this quote indicates that the only way to understand any theory is by doing. Only thinking, theorizing or, talking about it will not get you there.

I invite you to use the course as an open idea lab and an opportunity for experimentation. Use this opportunity to get better at something that you really want to understand concerning time. Follow your passion. Try things out, maybe fail and move forward.

I believe in dialogue and thus my main aim is to create the conditions for fruitful and creative co-learning experience, where we will reflect and share our experiences and ideas with others. In our course, we will be co-creating the course reality, so I expect you to be 100% responsible for your active presence and participation in the course.

I value independent thinking, double-checking the facts before formulating an argument, zooming out and seeing the bigger picture, creativity and genuine curiosity.

I am interested in many perspectives and will include a variety of material in our sessions, such as (but not limited to): short videos and movies, book excerpts, cartoons, photography projects, etc., which can provide a different view on the same problem. In a way, our journey through the course material will be like reading Milorad Pavic’s book “Dictionary of the Khazars” (1984). If you haven’t read it, I warmly recommend it. It powerfully illustrates how one event can create three different interpretations and subsequent realities. It is also an illustration of how our mind works when we learn something.

In my class, you will be expected to move beyond an opinion by supporting your view with what you can argue for based on the available course material, observations, experiments etc. By doing so we will learn how to respectfully construct and defend an argument and to recognize when a belief has become indefensible.

If at some point you think, “Why do we need this?” I appeal to C. Levi-Strauss who studied myths among many other things; “Myth or any other ancient text is an answer to questions that we haven’t asked yet. When we will ask the question, we will understand the answer” (as cited in Petukhov, 1997). Hopefully, in our joint journey we will find those questions to which we are getting the answers.

The syllabus is our plan, but as it normally is in life “we need a plan so that we can deviate from it”. I would be interested to know what are your specific interests connected to the field and I will do my best to incorporate those into the course canvas. Do not hesitate to propose something at any time!

Looking forward to meeting you in person and starting our journey!


Expectations of the Students

In class:
- Be punctual and attend all classes
- Be active in group work and exercises
- Contribute to class discussions and group activities

- Complete all readings prior to coming to class
- Keep notes from readings (main ideas, personal reflections, points of interest, etc.
- Prepare questions for the group discussions



The class will be a mix of lectures, discussions, participatory simulation, self-exploration and experiential projects and field experiments.





Participation and engagement


Experiential project + written report


Field experiment on pace of life


Field observation on the waiting time in public space


Group project addressing a real-life temporal challenge


Participation: Participation and engagement (25%):
Ongoing Evaluation
Your attendance and active participation are essential in all aspects of this course including class sessions, course-related field studies, in-class discussions, group work and general contribution to the progress of the class. Class meetings will include lectures, guest speakers, student presentations, debates, and videos.  Questions and discussion are not only expected, but in fact are required. I also expect you to come prepared to class and have done the required readings and homework. The smaller homework assignments will be handed in and will count towards your participation grade.

I expect you to take an active role in your own learning. This includes participating actively, but not dominating class discussion, doing your share in the group work, and having a positive attitude toward the course. In short, active participation is a requirement, and attendance in all classes and field studies is mandatory. See Canvas for grading criteria on class participation.

Experiential project + written report (15%)
There are two options for this assignment, you can choose between A or B:

In this experiential project you will need to find a partner with a different time perspective profile. You will interview this person (or each other if both of you are taking this class), so that by the end of it you should have some idea of the ways in which the two of you differ because of your time perspective. You don’t need to be different on everything – in fact, there should be some similarities – but you should be able to identify some key differences that can be explained in light of your different time orientations and spend some time becoming acquainted with the daily life of your partner. In order to accomplish that, each of you must spend a minimum of three hours following the other person around as they go about their usual activities. You may choose to do this at any time during the day, and at any point during the week. You might want to make this choice based on the time perspective on which you’re focusing.

In your 4-5 page paper describe not only the activities in which you engaged, but also describe your reactions, feelings, and cognitions while “living your partner’s life” for that brief period, and discuss how their life differs from yours because of their different time perspective. You could also discuss how this experience changed your opinion of your partner’s time perspective, if it shed any light on your own decisions, and whether it might change any of your choices.

Detailed guidelines will be available on Canvas.

This project gives the opportunity to change some element of your time perspective for a week. First, you need to determine the most distinctive, influential aspect of your time perspective profile: the single orientation that most makes you who you are. Then you’ll need to decide how you want to alter it.

During the five days for which you are engaging in this experience, you should try to alter a variety of facets of your life according to your change in time perspective. You should alter your social interactions, behaviors, choices, cognitions, decision-making processes, interpretations, emotions: in short, everything that your normal time perspective influences.

You will need to keep a diary of your experiences and reactions during the project. You should make an entry at least every day, and talk about how your altered time perspective influenced your life that day. When you turn in your 4-5 page paper, you will need to attach this diary to it. Your paper should discuss the elements listed above: both your experiences and your reactions, in regard to each of the ways in which you changed your life for five days in accordance with your new time perspective. Please also reflect on how this experience has shed new light on your normal life, and whether it has convinced you to make any changes in your normal behavior and choices.

Detailed guidelines will be available on Canvas.

Field experiment on pace of life, analysis paper and presentation (20%)

You will do this assignment in groups. The first part you will do together with your group while in Copenhagen. The second part you will do while on a travel break with your core course. You will design a field experiment on how to measure pace of life in different cities in Denmark and across Europe.

After conducting your experiment, you will combine the two parts and write a 4-5 page analysis paper as a group (APA style, double spacing, not more than 1200 words, not counting title page and references) and make a group presentation of your results in class. Detailed guidelines will be available on Canvas.

Field observation on the waiting time in public space (10%)

You will perform field observation that taps into the concept of “waiting time” that occurs in the public space, for example, in hospitals, in public transport. This assignment is two-fold. First, you will observe your own behavior - what do you do and experience once you are in a situation of waiting, and how it relates to your own personal time perspective profile. Second, you will choose a place to make your field observation of other people’s behavior while they are in the situation of waiting.

Required readings for Assignment:
Russell, M. (2011). Watching passengers: Using structured observation methods on public transport.

Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide, Module 2, Participant Observation

Oslo University Hospital - Changing the lives of breast cancer patients -

Sarah Ruth Payne, Jamie Mackrill, Rebecca Cain, Jason Strelitz & Lucy Gate (2015) Developing interior design briefs for health-care and well-being centres through public participation, Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 11:4, 264-279, DOI:10.1080/17452007.2014.923288

Group project addressing a real-life temporal challenge (30%)
You may use the field observation assignment to spot a real-life temporal challenge you would like to work on during this project. We will have time during the course to clarify your project goals and what exactly it could be. The main criteria for it – it should address a real life problem. The overall aim of this project is to bind together the theory, the relevant research findings, your own experiences and insights, the practical applications of what you have learned and put into practice the acquired skills.
Detailed guidelines will be available on Canvas.


Disability and Resource Statement  

Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Support ( to coordinate this.  In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

Policy on late papers: Late papers will not be accepted.

Policy for students who arrive late to class: Coming in late will affect your participation grade.

Use of laptops or phones in class:  Please refrain from using laptops and cell phones in the class because it is disturbing for other students and the lecturer. If a student is using a laptop or a phone without having obtained a permission from me first, this will result in decrease of your participation grade. You will be notified when there will be exceptions to this rule (e.g. during group work).









Course Summary:

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