An investigation of time concepts in Swazi children and adults
1. The aim of the study was to examine the concept of time in its various aspects within a single culture. 2. Studies of subjective time included time estimation, an examination of the effect of time constraints on behaviour and a study of punctuality. The findings from the latter studies suggested that Swazi subjects were not overly concerned with temporal constraints on behaviour, subjects tended not to arrive on time for appointments and tended not to use explicit time constraints to alter test-taking strategies. Performance on a time estimation task indicated that Swazi subjects were as accurate at reproducing short temporal intervals as subjects in studies conducted in other cultures. Where the production of an interval was required subjects experienced difficulty with such a task. 3. A series of five experiments investigating the development of children's knowledge of objective time was conducted using Piagetian methods. The data obtained provided some support for the Piagetian account of the reasoning strategies used by children in their acquisition of the concepts of simultaneity, succession and duration. Consistent with previous studies differences in the rate of development of operational concepts were noted, although these differences were not uniform across all the experiments presented. 4. Two further experiments were conducted on the development of time concepts using alternative models to that suggested by Piaget. The first experiment used an information processing approach as a basis for investigating children's understanding of simultaneity and duration. The predictions of the information processing approach were supported but alternative explanations were provided and limitations of the approach discussed. The second experiment investigated the development of the concepts of speed, distance and time using the rule assessment approach. Comparative data from other studies using similar procedures indicated that Swazi children used similar reasoning strategies to children in other cultures. Similarities between the data obtained in this study and that obtained in the Piagetian studies were noted. 5. Studies of temporal orientation indicated that the modal value orientation for time was in the present or in the future rather than in the past. The lack of any consistent modal value orientation was taken as indicative of a culture in transition from a traditional to a technological society. Traditional psychometric measures of temporal orientation provided no clear patterns of responses, either within or across cultures, a finding which led to the validity of these measures being questioned. 6. A comparative study of future time perspective revealed that Swazi subjects' temporal horizon was determined by the issues of concern for the future. Where the issues of concern were personally involving shorter temporal horizons were evident, where the issues of concern were less personally involving more distant temporal horizons were indicated. Differences between the sexes were noted both within cultures and between cultures. Where the issues of concern for the future were similar across cultures no differences were noted in the lengths of the temporal horizons for Scottish and Swazi subjects. 7. The diversity of approaches and findings were discussed and the need for a clear taxonomy of temporal phenomena recognised. Future directions were considered.