The Theory of Mindtime: the Relationships Between Future, Past, and Present Thinking and Psychological Well-Being and Distress

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Personality and Individual Differences

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Based on recent advances in cognitive and comparative psychology, we posit that the arguably unique human ability to decouple primary mental representations from the present moment and place them into different temporal localities (i.e., form secondary mental representations of objects) as well as the ability to form higher-order mental representations of secondary representations (meta-representations) gave rise to the development of three distinct patterns of thinking: Future thinking, Past thinking, and Present thinking. Moreover, we posit that measurable individual differences exist in the extent to which each of the three thinking perspectives are utilized and that such differences influence the manifestation and expression of personality and well-being. In this study, five hundred eighty participants completed the TimeStyle Inventory and measures of resiliency, optimism, cynicism, anxiety, and depression. Our results indicated that Future, Past, and Present thinking correlated as hypothesized and shared unique variance with the dependent variables. Our findings support the theory of MindTime and have implications for personality theory and stress research.