“Thank You, Dr Zimbardo!” Modern Psychologists Celebrate the Icon’s 80th Birthday with New Book on Time

Time Talks: International Time Perspective Network thematic groups interview series

In these series we bring you individual stories about the members of the International Time Perspective Network. These stories delve into what these members are passionate about, how they bring their ideas to life, and what role time perspective plays in their lives.

We hope that you’ll be inspired by the many aspects of time in this interview series. Please share our fascination and join the dialogue! Our next meeting will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark: 15–19 August, 2016. Celebrating Time.

International Time Perspective Network | Diversity of Approaches, Unity of Passion

The “Time Perspective Theory, Review, Research and Application” book is about time and its powerful influence on our personal and collective daily life. It presents the most comprehensive and up-to-date overview of contemporary knowledge on temporal psychology inspired by Zimbardo’s work on Time Perspective (TP).

With contributions from renowned and promising researchers from all over the globe, and at the interface of social, personality, cognitive and clinical psychology, the handbook captures the breadth and depth of the field of psychological time. Time perspective, as the way people construe the past, the present and the future, is conceived and presented not only as one of the most influential dimensions in our psychological life leading to self-impairing behaviors, but also as a facet of our person that can be de-biased and supportive for well-being and happiness.

Written in honor of Philip G. Zimbardo on his 80th birthday and in acknowledgement of his leading role in the field, the book contains illustrations of the countless studies and applications that his theory has stimulated, and captures the theoretical, methodological and practical pathways he opened by his prolific research.

Maciej Stolarski · Nicolas Fieulaine · Wessel van Beek

As Time Perspective is one of my major research interests, I bought the book Time Perspective Theory; Review, Research and Application. Essays in Honor of Philip G. Zimbardo (hereafter, the Springer book). This book quickly became a key reference for me, every bit as much as Zimbardo and Boyd’s seminal article (see Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999) and Zimbardo’s books (The Time Paradox and The Time Cure).

And as I had already met Nicolas Fieulaine and Maciej Stolarski when I attended the 2nd International Conference on Time Perspective in Warsaw in 2014, upon finishing the book I also thought that sharing their experiences with other researchers (i.e., both those who are new to this field and those who are more experienced) who are planning to take this route would be very helpful. Thus, I decided to interview the Editors of the Springer book.

~ Ludvig Levasseur, Time Talks interviewer

How did time perspective research and its applications book project take place? What inspired the book?

MS (Maciej Stolarski): Actually, the initial idea came to my mind while I was traveling back home from one of the international conferences in psychology. During that conference I noticed that there was no comprehensive handbook on TP which was such a big gap to fill in. I even started to wonder: Maybe I should edit such a book… But who on earth would accept my invitation? I was a young researcher in an onset of scientific career, with just one or two international publications. Thus the idea evaporated out of my mind even faster than it came.

I was working on one of my articles on Time Perspective in an airplane, and I started to wonder the age of Phil Zimbardo, with whom I have been working since 2010. I checked it during a stopover and recognized that he was getting close to his 80th birthday anniversary. And this was a sort of an illumination, two tiny balls hit each other in my mind: This was THE unique occasion — A festschrift! I definitely owed it to Phil, who had been an invaluable mentor and consequently had supported me in all of my scientific efforts. And if I would ask people to write a chapter for Phil Zimbardo’s anniversary book, nobody would reject!

After I came back home I noticed that I will simply not be able to manage such a BIG project by my own. Although I had a long list of potential contributors in my mind, I had zero experience editing a book like this. Also, my area of expertise was rather limited.

Thus, the first thing I had to do was to invite some dynamic co-editors representing various fields of psychological science and practice. My reasoning was as follows: I am a personality psychologist, with some experience in psychology of emotion and cognitive processes. In the first place, I needed a social psychologist to counterbalance my dispositional approach. My choice fell on Nicolas, whom I knew from his brilliant papers on TP and addiction. His answer was enthusiastic, and so was the one from Wessel, whom I chose due to his practical-therapeutic approach. Our fellowship was formed, and this is how our journey begun.

“… it was about remembering the past, the legacy, enjoying the present, the energy of our group of researchers, and envisioning the future, the research avenues the book is suggesting.” — Nicolas Fieulaine

NF (Nicolas Fieulaine): I was invited to join Maciej and Wessel to edit this book, and our view was almost the same on the strong need for a state of the art in TP research. Also, it was a way for us to honor Phil Zimbardo, for having launched decades of research on TP, and to put a milestone on the way to a more rigorous and integrative theory of Time Perspective. Indeed, it was about remembering the past, the legacy, enjoying the present, the energy of our group of researchers, and envisioning the future, the research avenues the book is suggesting.

WvB (Wessel van Beek): Maciej Stolarski came up with the idea and asked me to join. The reason why I did was pretty simple, it was a great opportunity for us, as a network, to publish this work. Finally a collection of contributors, colleagues and research. For me personally it was a way to thank Dr. Zimbardo for the work he did and still does, both in his research, and in his ongoing support for our network. I was also an opportunity to add a personal touch to it, like the contributions by Christina Maslach and John Boyd. And well, Zim’s afterword, I have it framed above my bed.

Maciej Stolarski gifts the book to Professor Philip G. Zimbardo during the 2nd International Conference on Time Perspective, Poland, Warsaw, 29th July-1st August 2014

Which topics did you choose to focus on?

MS: We intended to cover all possible areas of both TP research and practice. Thus, we aimed to collect the broadest possible set of topics. We investigated the existing literature on TP and decided who we would invite. If there were few researchers specializing in one topic, we either chose the most prominent one, or encouraged them to combine their forces. Certainly we missed some topics, but I believe that we collected a majority of those issues that were hitherto raised in the literature.

Since that time, however, many interesting discoveries were made after we had completed our author/topic list. For instance, Lening Olivera published a great paper on cortisol and TP, revealing physiological bases of temporal orientations; and I did a study on the role of TP in close relationships which brought some particularly interesting results, showing that the associations between TP and relationship satisfaction may change along with relationships’ duration: present hedonists may be happier in the early phases of relationship, but become less and less satisfied as time passes by… Probably many other topics could have been raised in the book, but I personally hope to cover these new paths in another book on TP.

NF: We wanted to cover the full scope of TP research. It was at risk of heterogeneity and perhaps a kind of a confused collection of diverse studies, but it was the current state of the research. This diversity is a strength and a weakness, depending on how we are able to build a general figure of results and to make cumulative research rather that repetitive studies. The three big parts (theory, correlates and applications) rapidly became obvious, but we spent hours and numbers of emails to decide the final structure. To be transparent, the most change in the content order was made during the production process, our publisher wasn’t very happy…!

WvB: We decided which parts of the book we would focus on together. As a clinician I focused on the fourth part of the book: the applications section. But the three of us read every chapter a couple of times before the final publication. Interestingly, we only met each other in person one time (in Coimbra), and most of the other communication went by email. We basically used the two years between the congress in Portugal and the one in Poland to work on it.

What were the book’s major time periods of development?

MS: After we formed our team, we immediately started to work on our all-star list of authors. Then we started to invite them (and >80% said YES!). In the meanwhile we asked John Boyd to write a laudation and Christina Maslach to write a foreword. Then we started to seek for a publisher. Initially we negotiated with Palgrave, but then Christina contacted us with Springer, and from that point we experienced the most professional publishing assistance in the world. Finally it came to motivate all of the authors to submit their papers on time (or at least not to exceed it dramatically). After we received all the chapters, we provided our authors with reviews (each chapter was reviewed by two of us), pointing out eventual weaknesses and suggesting some (usually very minor) changes. At the same time Phil was writing a foreword for the book. After receiving the final versions, the only thing left was to put all the things together and send the full manuscript to Springer. They did the rest of the publishing job.

NF: The first one was the most unfamiliar for me. Pitching, benchmarking, targeting audience… all these marketing needs had to be managed in relation with the publisher. Then, we had to deal with invitations, reminders, reviews and corrections, and it was very demanding. We had peaks and valleys in our working rhythm, but fortunately, we were on-beat!

WvB: Structuring the process was hard. I think we have different styles. I am easily distracted and therefore used to structuring myself. I need to plan things and keep an overview, which was sometimes missing. But that never really became a problem. We agreed pretty easily on the steps we had to take. Maybe there should have been more discussion about the choices we made, but because we communicated through email, and because English is not our mother tongue, we had to keep things rather uncomplicated. In the end, I think that worked out well.

What was the most interesting and, on the other hand, the most difficult in all the process of the book release?

NF: The most interesting was our debates on the deep aims of the book: sharing knowledge with every person, providing a manual to students, publishing cutting-edge research for scientists? It was very hard to find the right balance, and I guess it was not fully achieved. I think our next INTP Conference in Copenhagen (Celebrating Time) this August will be helpful to connect better these no so contradictory goals. The most difficult was the negotiation about the price of the book. We were not able to obtain a better price, despite our claims and we were limited in the number of color pages! It’s a pity that this book is so expensive.

MS: Certainly the most interesting phase was to read the chapters. I was pretty embarrassed to review papers written by leading scientists from Harvard or Berkeley. But it was extremely exciting to be the first to read all these brilliant works. Paradoxically, it was the last phase, i.e., all the final cleaning work, text formatting, checking all the Springer’s edits, etc., that I found the most demanding (presumably because it was a bit boring). Also, in some cases motivating our authors to send the final outcome of their work turned out to be pretty tough task. Luckily this was rather incidental.

WvB: Most difficult for me was that I had to, or wanted to, make sense of everything I read. For some chapters it meant that I needed to dig up publications which I read quite a while ago, or in some cases I had to read articles I never studied before. What made it easier for me was the fact that at that time I decided to start working on my own book, about time in psychotherapy and training. Combining the two motivated me to start thinking about time perspective from scratch. Once again I was pleasantly surprised to see how much has been going on in this field the last decade. And I am sure we could have filled three volumes of worthwhile material. We had to leave out so much.

What have you learned since writing the book, and how would you go about writing it differently?

MS: Definitely I would invite some additional authors. During the inviting phase we were not aware of some brilliant researchers working in the field. As for the second question — I have learned that team work definitely pays off. And that it was good to work with Springer, we hope to publish some other books when the appropriate time comes.

NF: Despite the interest of counterfactual thinking, I can answer only with in mind the fact that this book is actually published! So, thinking of a new book, I first would make it in open access and self-publishing. Also, I would claim for a more diverse approach to time, with more pictures and links to the Internet. We need to enrich the dialogue between psychology and other sciences, to renew our origins in philosophy, and to make interdisciplinary borders fuzzier. It is absolutely contradictory to the actual requirements to be a “productive” (then funded, then recruited, then published…) scientist, but the publish or perish commandment in research is becoming more and more a “publish and perish” reality for science. This book was also made to help many young scientist to have their work published.

WvB: One of the things Phil Zimbardo taught me is to write for a more general public. Write for your local newspaper or a magazine. We should move out of our universities and peer-reviewed journals, to explain to others why this time perspective thing is important. Because I work as a psychotherapist and only do research as side projects, I have always tried to translate theory into practice.

Another thing I learned and applied in my own project was to write a chapter ‘minus one’. It is in children’s language. In the ‘minus one’ chapter for my new book I explain to children what time is, why it is important, what we studied so far and what we can do with both these concepts and the results of the studies. It is the best part of the book, it was great fun to write, and it will never be published. We need to get rid of the high-level abstractions and scientific language, mostly used to impress our colleagues and the peer-reviewers. There is quite a lot of this silly language in our book as well. I hope one day we will be able to write it in a way that normal people understand it as well. But publishers might not like plain English.

Illustration by Danka Davydiuk

More generally, how does time perspective research help people in their daily lives?

WvB: It doesn’t. Theory and research don’t help, non-scientific applications do. It is a common misunderstanding that something derived from science is still scientific. The apple is no longer an apple when you put it in a pie. We should stop fooling ourselves with this.

Time Perspective Theory is a tool, like in my line of work for instance psychoanalytic theory is. The map and the actual landscape. I don’t believe in a Time Perspective Application. I think scientific research helps us to add bits and pieces to what we already know. And then we filter out the old rubbish, put it all in a big melting pot, spice things up, and create an eclectic mixture. Both in social psychology applications, and in clinical psychology and psychiatry, where I work. Bring your time perspective addition back to the general model, and then back to the daily lives. And get rid of the ‘scientifically proven’ pretention. We are not that smart.

NF: In many and somewhat unexpected ways. I am actually working with the biggest rail company in France, to improve passengers experience using insights from TP research and social psychology in general. Another example is how TP can be useful to design mobile health applications, for instance applications to manage diabetes. But in my view, the main contribution of TP research is to make people more aware about time, and how it can have a huge impact in their life. And as social psychologist, I’m particularly happy when we can uncover how time is used to create, reinforce or justify inequalities, and if this can help people to escape from temporal traps, to envision another future and stand up for making it real.

MS: My own research highlights the pronounced role of TP in the process of socioemotional adaptation. I believe that growing body of data in our area provides a priceless background for practical interventions aiming to help people to cope effectively with various demands of life in contemporary world. For instance, my wife and I translate my major findings into her coaching practice (I believe that TP theory is presumably the best theoretical framework for practical interventions). Rose Sword and Elena Kazakina introduce the TP theory to psychotherapy and obtain some really impressive effects. Also, currently I work with my colleague, Patrycja Slawuta, who developed a wonderful applied psychology project labeled Self-Hackaton. We are now elaborating on potential ways to apply TP theory to business.

Are you going to attend Celebrating Time: ICTP3 in Copenhagen next summer?

MS: Of course! How could I lose this exciting opportunity to meet vast majority of time researchers from all around the world? Both the 1st ICTP where I received the Outstanding Young Researcher award and the 2nd ICTP, which I co-organized with Aneta Przepiórka, went out so well that I simply can’t wait until our next meeting. I hope to find a lot of inspiration and positive energy there.

WvB: I wasn’t going to come, because I stopped attending congresses whenever I can. Talks and particularly scientific presentations have become too complicated and too specialized for me. Too frequently I get the feeling that the presenters need to impress me. I tried to do that myself for quite a while, and I was pretty annoying. Whenever I listen to presentations or talks nowadays, I sit there, watching figures, models and tables, waiting for the last few minutes where the presenter finally tells me the conclusions. It is a waste of time, because all the opportunities to actually talk are minimized. We don’t exchange ideas, we criticize and impress. And we call it science and peer-reviewing.

But I will be in Copenhagen, because I do feel we can do it differently over there. I think we are organizing the event I would want to attend. Enough science to make sense, and I am sure we will create opportunities to talk, listen and exchange as well. I hope to be impressed by the people who stopped trying to impress.

NF: Of course! I definitively want to see how artists, innovators, and scientist sharing ideas, experience and beer.

Thank you! See you in Copenhagen!

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This interview is brought to you by:

Interviewers | members of the Integration of the Field thematic group

Ludvig Levasseur — Ludvig Levasseur is a doctoral candidate at the University of Paris-Dauphine where he investigates time perspective and entrepreneurial alertness. His research interests also include mixed methods and venture capital. Contact e-mail: ludvig.levasseur@hotmail.fr

Illustration — Danka Davydiuk, a young artist from L’viv, Ukraine, who works in monumental painting. She is the author of paintings for cafe “Medelin” (L’viv, Ukraine), illustrator of books for children, and author of different beautiful postcards. More illustrations you can find at bogdana davydiuk and here.

Proof-reading — Natalie Odisho, interested in the intersection between well-being and time perspective. As a wellness specialist, Natalie investigates motivation of the individual and how this shapes mass behavior. Her experience includes intensive detoxification training, Refugee: The Eritrean Exodus documentary, and Style’s New York Fashion Week.

Assistant editor — Oksana Senyk, assistant at Psychology Department, Ivan Franko National University of L’viv, Ukraine

Idea and realization — Anna Sircova, Twitter @anna_bki

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