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Thread: How NJs and NPs view time

  1. #1
    Member Array trancemode's Avatar
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    Default How NJs and NPs view time

    Here’s something for you to chew on. It’s a post by Lenore Thomson (“cult” author of Personality Types: An Owner’s Manual), copied and posted on another forum by someone. It’s about the contrast between NPs and NJs in their conversion of time to “spatial constructs”. Though she doesn’t mention SPs and SJs, her drift seems to be toward the difference in how Js and Ps view time, in line with her theory that Js are left brain dominant (linear), Ps right-brain (non-linear).

    For me (INFP), it fits. I don’t have trouble with the expression about moving a meeting or event “up” or “back”, though I recognize that it’s backwards if I stop and think about it (which I never had until reading that post).

    It’s curious how the NJs she quotes get stuck on this one common expression, amid all the others that don’t make literal sense which they have long since absorbed; surely they know what people mean when they use it. It’s hard to imagine all these NJs out there getting confused whenever someone they have plans with wants to move them “up” or “back” a day.

    And how do SPs and SJs see this? If I’m right, SPs would be similar to NPs, and SJs to NJs.

    1. on the
    Concept of Time
    Lenore Thomson

    (Informal correspondence, used with author's permission, all rights reserved.)

    I'm neither INFP nor INFJ, but I do have a kind of off-the-wall way of narrowing the distinction between NP and NJ. I'm not going to take a definitive stand on it, but it's worked out often enough that I've come to think of it as an approximate rule of thumb.

    This distinction doesn't turn on behaviors or traits, so it doesn't lend itself to negative stereotypes. It's simply about the way people represent things to themselves.

    Which is to say: It's been my experience that NPs pretty much take for granted that time is represented linguistically in spatial terms. Just as a country can be divided into counties and cities, we customarily divide time into segments and pieces.

    NJs of course acquire the many terms that permit us to do this, but they don't appear to regard the time --> space conversion as entirely natural.

    For example, when someone tells me (I'm an INTJ) that a meeting has been moved up a day, I'm *never* sure whether I'm supposed to show up a day earlier or a day later. There is nothing that feels natural to me about thinking this way. In fact, if I try to work it out in my mind, the spatial terms ultimately incline me to "picture time."

    When I do, I see a linear path, on which "time" is proceeding from the past into the future. So, "moving back" a future event would mean bringing it from where it is up ahead, so that it's now closer to the present.

    But the phrase actually means the opposite. Moving an event "back" is to locate it further in the future.

    When several NJs discussed their problems with this expression on the psych-type list a few years ago, every one of the NPs who responded expressed surprise that anyone would even find the subject worth talking about. Some INFPs agreed that the language was imprecise, but they also regarded the complaint as a non-issue. One INFP said he just pictures his date book. Moving an event "back" in the date book is to put it closer to the back cover, or to push it further away in time.

    I asked an ENFP, and he said the same sort of thing: He pictures a cup in front of him on a dinner table. Moving the cup "back" is to push it away; moving it "up" is to pull it closer.

    I was really struck by this. Every NJ -- ENTJs, INTJs, INFJs and ENFJs -- who wrote about the topic experienced the same translation problem that I have. We all felt obliged to "picture time" as such.

    *None* of the "pictures" supplied by the NPs had anything to do with time. They were *entirely* within the realm of space.

    Since that psych-type discussion, I've talked to a lot of NJs and NPs, and just about every one of them has reacted according to type. The NJs have identified with my experience, even when they're math-oriented or scientifically educated or make blueprints for a living. They've even welcomed the opportunity to put their frustration with the time --> space conversion into words. Many said that the only way they ever get hold of images that spatialize time is to make a deliberate effort to forget that time is at issue, because the conclusions they draw on that basis never jibe with the way the images are normally understood.

    In order to make the spatial images work, they try to associate them with concrete landmarks from their own experience -- like associating yearly intervals with school semesters, so that other events can be associated with specific experiences rather than the intervals themselves.

    It seems to me that this distinction is functionally related, not in the sense of behavioral motivation, but in the sense of the functions describing the way in which people are accustomed to explaining things to themselves.

    An NP's inner world is oriented by Introverted Judgment: a will to discern underlying organizational patterns. The outer Perceptual world (Extraverted Intuition) "just is," until the NTP recognizes underlying structural relationships and maps it, or the NFP recognizes the larger design in which all parts ideally cooperate. So perhaps these types are accustomed to grasping virtual reality in terms of spatial models.

    NJs are coming at this from the other direction. It's their *inner* Perceptual world that "just is" (Introverted Intuition). Time in this inner Perceptual world doesn't exist in its own right; it's completely relative to subjective experience. It's the outer world of causal consequences and consensual limits (Extraverted Judgment) that determines a consistent standard of meaning for what's being taken in.

    So NJs appear to feel a clash between spatial constructs for temporal orientation and their native experience of time, forcing them to figure out what those constructs are "supposed" to mean. In fact, the ENJs to whom I've spoken are highly critical of people who use the phrases "move up" and "move back" incorrectly, because the potential for confusion strikes them as so great.

    In summary, when I'm trying to figure out whether someone is an NP or an NJ, I generally ask them whether they have a problem with the terms "moving up" and "back" an event in time. NPs will frequently acknowledge the linguistic imprecision, but they don't regard it as a big deal and will generally say they associate the phrases by analogy to other spatial events.

    NJs, on the other hand, will usually agree that the linguistic convention is peculiar and makes for confusion, may welcome the opportunity to talk about something they thought was "just them," and will often maintain that they don't use the phrases with others without supplementing them with further information (We'll move the meeting up a day -- that is, from Wednesday to Tuesday).

  2. #2
    Honor Thy Inferior Array Such Irony's Avatar
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    Interesting. I've always associated "moving up" a day as something that will occur a day earlier than planned. I've never had issue with it myself but I will agree the language is rather imprecise. Typical NP response here.
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  3. #3


    I'd figure J types to have a firmer grasp on these linguistics, but perhaps it is just continuing the trend that they need absolute certainty when decisions are being made.

    To me, it seems painfully obvious that up is nearer in the future and back implies delay.

    I speed read, but it seems like I may have missed some interesting things. I'll entertain more later.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Array valentine's Avatar
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    Time and moving of its location are generally culturally bound.

    I generally like Thomson's writing but this is lacking.

  5. #5
    ⒺⓉⒷ Array Eric B's Avatar
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    It seems "back=future" is from the perspective of the viewer, who thinks of himself as looking forward in time, so that the future becomes "depth", and thus "away" or "back", while past is moving toward him. Like the spatial analogy with the cup.
    "back=past" seems to be looking at the "timeline" from an external position (they take themselves out of the line). So it becomes like left and right, and most of us think of right as forward, so "back" becomes left.
    People look at the past direction the same way, even when the stretch of time they are looking at is still future to them. (Funny, as I remember most of us NP's also looking at future as right, but the difference must be that we don't take ourselves out of the timeline. It makes sense that Ni would look at time globally).
    I guess both of these analogies would be spatial. Perhaps that's just my way of explaining it.
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  6. #6
    .~ *aĉa virino* ~. Array Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Never had any issues with this. Some of it is also the adaptability of P style; even when terminology can be "overthought" / over-analyzed, I simply figure out what the common use is and then flex to it. I think NJ is much more resistant to flex depending on the state of the J; I've had NJ's really dig in sometimes and refuse to accommodate new information, because they think more naturally / like the old thinking better. But P can be very adaptable, even if we have an a priori way to view something.

    I don't necessarily picture pushing a teacup away or bringing it up toward me; even if I visualize a calendar, moving something "up" on the calendar (toward the top) means necessarily making it happen earlier, while pushing it "down" makes it appear later. Perhaps this is still somewhat spatial, but it's directly tied to the most common device we use to track dates. Thus it seems very obvious what the answer is. I'm not sure why or how NJs would perceive time in some totally abstract sense.
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  7. #7
    scourge Array miss fortune's Avatar
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    I've generally viewed human time to be linear because we have the misfortune of only aging in one direction, however, time in general is possibly a lot more fluid considering the cyclical nature of nature and events

    the problem is that I'm a human and have to live by human time... I resent this

    of course, who knows what happens after death? time travel? I certainly hope so!

    I suppose, furthermore, that in the reference to imprecise times like now, which is never able to pin down it would only be the border between what is set and what is possible, the future being the dark, uncharted area of the map while the past is filled in with roads, villages and mountains and such... not to mention possible time related things that we don't even KNOW about yet

    and then there's relative time, such as how time moves incredibly slowly while you are waiting for something and way too quickly once you start having fun... that would be perceptual time v actual time...

    so many variables...

    perhaps I'll just go with Thoreau and claim that it's the stream in which I fish and leave it at that... it sounds peaceful!
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  8. #8
    Vulnerability Array Eilonwy's Avatar
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    Until I read the OP, I thought moving it up a day was having it a day earlier and moving it back was putting off until a later date. But then I read the article, saw the other way of thinking about it and then got confused. I've never really thought about the spacial or the linear aspects of it.

    Tangent: It reminds me of when I heard a story about Coco the gorilla. Through sign language, her humans determined that, while we think of the future as being ahead of us and the past behind us, Coco saw it the other way around because the future is something that you can't see, so it's behind you, and the past is something you can see, so it's in front of you.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Array
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    I'm NP, and have no clue what "moved up a day" would mean.

    Maybe it's a US thing?

  10. #10
    The Memes Justify the End Array EcK's Avatar
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    I don't view time. I'm like, the worst person at time management, ever. I compensate with other things but ask me to remember if something happened 2 months or 2 weeks ago frankly I'm not sure I could tell you.

    I don't really use spatial terms to depict the dynamics of time, because I rarely talk in terms of time in the first place. If I do I make estimates and adjust for error rates.

    Then again the notions of moving things back and up (actually, forward makes more sense to me) is an idiom, as a native french/polish speaker we . oh yeah actually we do say 'avancer' which means 'to move forward' and that makes total sense to me and 'repousser' which means 'to move back' and that also makes total sense to me.

    so I guess I agree with the OP that this seems like a natural way to deal with time/scheduling. But I don't know about NJs.
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