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    Sep 04, 2015    |   Aidan Millar

“Time is Relative”: An Exploration of Type and Time Perception

time-608876_1280 (2)Original study posted by John Hackston – Head of R&D at OPP. Check it out here.

Time. An ethereal concept, or a real resource? Something elastic, or an uncompromising task master? Sometimes there seems to be too much of it, and at other times never enough. Our relationship with time is one that travels with us through the stages of life and helps us to get things done …. or not… or eventually! Do we live in the future, the past, or the here and now? And what about the person next to you? You are both here and now, but are you really?

Perhaps we all know what time is, but what we ‘know’ will differ depending on our personality, and in particular on our psychological type. Here are two genuine definitions of time from two different people:

Example A: Guidelines. Sets morning, lunch, evening, etc. Divides day into 24 hour pieces.

Example B: The 4th dimension, though one through which we do not have freedom of movement. The pace of events. Physically metronomic, psychically accelerates.

One of these was written by someone with SJ preferences, the other by an individual with preferences for NP. We’ll let you guess which is which.

Writing down definitions of time is probably not something that you regularly do in your day job, but the way in which we perceive time does have important practical implications for the workplace. OPP’s research suggests that the way we use our Perceiving function – the S or N in our four letter MBTI type, together with J and P, which determines its orientation – has big implications for how we approach our work.

In our research results, people differed in the extent to which they saw time as scarce or plentiful, whether or not they preferred to do several things at the same time, and whether they were more orientated towards the past, the present or the future. This is what we found:


There are some big differences here, especially between SJ and NP types, and between SP and NJ types. The different ways in which we see and use time can have a whole range of impacts from differences in attitudes around planning, via mutual incomprehension (“why are they going on about the future when there is so much happening right now?”) to outright conflict. How have you seen the perception of time influencing the dynamics in teams you’ve worked with? Let us know!