Research projects

Explore our current projects and funding
Our researchers have a number of large research projects on the go. Below offers a taste of just some of those projects.

Temporal Experience Project

Temporal experience may be unified and continuous, but the information processing underpinning it is not. Researchers at the centre (Alex Holcombe) are studying the relation between the dynamics of perception, attention and cognition. As one's eyes move over the words in a sentence like this one, we know that at the brain's first stages two words are processed in parallel, but find evidence that at later stages processing proceeds from left to right over the pre-processed words, contributing to the sequencing important for comprehending text. The intermittent, serial sampling involved seems to be driven by brain oscillations, which are also being investigated for moving stimuli, where the experiential facade of continuous motion conceals the critical role played by an intermittent sampling process. International collaborations include work with stroke patients whose parietal lobe damage perturbs their processing dynamics.

Temporal Phenomenology Project

Within the philosophy of time there has emerged a debate about whether our temporal phenomenology is such that it seems to us as though time passes. Some think it does. If so, then either that seeming is veridical, because there is temporal passage, or it is a systematic and pervasive illusion. According to other philosophers, it does not even seem as though time passes; instead, individuals mistakenly believe that it seems this way. Researchers at the Centre (Kristie Miller and Alex Holcombe) are pursuing a research project which aims to use psychological experimental methodologies to investigate whether it really does seem to people as though time passes, or, instead, if they simply mistakenly believe that it seems this way.

Time and Time Bias Project

A plethora of psychological research shows that people think about and respond to events differently, depending on their relative temporal location. For instance, it is usual to find that individuals prefer to have positive experiences located in their future, but negative experiences in their past, and that individuals prefer to have positive experiences in the near future, rather than the far future. Researchers at the Centre (Kristie Miller and Preston Greene) are empirically investigating these phenomena, which collectively are known as time bias. In particular, they are interested in whether there is difference shown in time bias between hedonic and non-hedonic experiences.

Agency and Time Project

The story of our lives is one that unfolds through time; ever changing and updating as we add to the store of memories through which we understand our past selves, and our store of intentions, through which we shape our future selves. Or so it seems. Yet there is disagreement about the nature of time: about what time is and whether, in fact, it really exists at all. Researchers at the Centre (Kristie Miller) explore the connection between theories of time and timelessness in metaphysics and physics, and our lived experience as agents. This project aims to determine what structure the temporal dimension must have if it is to support agents like us, and whether, if there is no temporal dimension, as some physicists suggest, we can make any sense of our lived experience.

Time and Physics Project

Our lives seem to be lived in an asymmetric temporal dimension in which past and future seem to us very different. Yet our everyday experience of the world conflicts with many (if not all) of the theories of time presented to us by contemporary physics. In this project, researchers at the Centre (Kristie Miller, David Braddon-Mitchell, Sam Baron Craig Callender, Helen Beebee, Alastair Wilson, Jonathan Tallant) will consider three very different physical theories, each of which reconciles quantum mechanics and general and special relativity in a different way. It will explore the tension between these physical theories and provide a range of ways of bridging them with our lived experience, with a view to determining where we can, and should, transform scientific theory, and where we should transform our understanding of ourself and our experiences.

In Wandering Mazes Lost: Why Existence? Project

The question of why there is something rather than nothing? is apt to strike most people as rather outmoded. Centre for Time researchers (Dean Rickles) aim to restore the question back to its rightful position as the most fundamental of all, and one of central importance for understanding both our place in the universe and the nature of the universe. This project will modernise the question and remodel its landscape, considering the state of the art in terms of both formulations and responses, and offering up the best possible solutions on the basis of present knowledge. The project will bring together philosophy, physics, cosmology, mathematics, neuroscience, logic, and more. Expected outcomes of this project include new insights into the nature of existence, including the relationship between time and existence.

Keeping the Future in Mind: Temporal Diseases and their Cure

This project, undertaken by researchers in the Centre (Dean Rickles) aims to integrate models of time, decision making, and personal identity, with application to a range of pressing contemporary world problems (including climate, population, finance, and health inequalities). The work straddles many disciplines, including philosophy, physics, linguistics, psychology, economics, and neuroscience. Despite the multidisciplinarity of the problems, it all boils down to one basic feature: how we view ourselves as situated in time profoundly affects relations with self, others and the world. By better understanding this, we anticipate a new understanding of the causes of global problems and the development of new methods of tackling them, offering wide-ranging benefits for many sectors of society.