Robert V. Levine, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
California State University, Fresno

A Geography of Time
(Basic Books/Perseus, 1997)

Read the first chapter

Media review copies

 

 

•Winner of the Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Award, 1998

•Translated into six languages. German translation (“Eine Landkarte der Zeit”) named "Non-fiction Book of the Year" by the German science magazine Bild der Wissenschaft, 1999.

•Subject of feature stories and documentaries around the world (e.g. Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, ABC PrimeTime, CNN, The BBC, The Discovery Channel and Public Broadcasting's All Things Considered and Marketplace).

Card catalog description

In this engaging and spirited book, eminent social psychologist Robert Levine asks us to explore a dimension of our experience that we take for granted - our perception of time. When we travel to a different country, or even a different city in the United States, we assume that a certain amount of cultural adjustment will be required, whether it's getting used to new food or negotiating a foreign language, adapting to a different standard of living or another currency. In fact, what contributes most to our sense of disorientation is having to adapt to another culture's sense of time. Levine, who has devoted his career to studying time and the pace of life, takes us on an enchanting tour of time through the ages and around the world. As he recounts his unique experiences with humor and deep insight, we travel with him to Brazil, where to be three hours late is perfectly acceptable, and to Japan, where he finds a sense of the long-term that is unheard of in the West. We visit communities in the United States and find that population size affects the pace of life - and even the pace of walking. We travel back in time to ancient Greece to examine early clocks and sundials, then move forward through the centuries to the beginnings of "clock time" during the Industrial Revolution. Levine raises some fascinating questions. How do we use our time? Are we being ruled by the clock? What is this doing to our cities? To our relationships? To our own bodies and psyches? Are there decisions we have made without conscious choice? Alternative tempos we might prefer? Perhaps, Levine argues, our goal should be to try to live in a "multitemporal" society, one in which we learn to move back and forth among nature time, event time, and clock time.

Editorial Reviews

"An elegant gem.  Levine takes us behind the lens of the sensitive observer's eye to make us aware of the psychology of time as perhaps the greatest of human inventions. He combines brilliant observations, original field experiments, and wide ranging scholarship to generate an original view of how subjective time and human functioning mesh or collide. Geography of Time is a worthwhile detour: take it and value its lessons well."
--Philip Zimbardo, Stanford University

"What a timely book! An empirically trained social psychologist casts an informed eye across the cross-cultural literature on how people in various parts of the globe structure their 24 hours each day. The 'silent language' of time is articulated in this pacey, humorous assessment of how this basic dimension of our lives affects us all. Scholarly but fun, informative but colorful. Take time to read this book."
--Michael Harris Bond, Chinese University of Hong Kong

"Our treatment of time turns out to be a masterful key that opens a fantastic array of doors into numerous intellectual, social, cultural, and many other-worldly areas."
--Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule

"Anyone who picks up this book believing that time is simply something that is measured by that little gadget on your wrist is in for a major revelation and a mind-expanding experience (as well as a good 'time.' Levine is to be congratulated; truly, an excellent piece of work."
--Elliott Aronson, University of California at Santa Cruz

"Levine shows with grace, wit, and scholarship how culture-bound our sense of time really is. A Geography of Time has altered (for the better) my own attitude toward time. This book should make a major contribution to breaking the shackles of time pressure that bind us all."
--Ralph Keyes, author of Timelock

"Packed with interesting observations and information."
--Anthony Storr, Washington Times

“A Geography of Time is the delightful fruit of [Levine’s] long labor. The narrative, refreshingly free from academic jargon, is a sometimes chatty, often engrossing mix of history, social psychology research and travel anecdotes. . . a lucid mix of historical insights and popularized social psychology research—and it’s a lot of fun.”
--Abbas Milani, San Francisco Chronicle

“Levine writes the way Indiana Jones and Billy Pilgrim travel. Around every corner in this tale, we’re likely to leap halfway around the planet and land in an entirely different adventure. . . Give this clever new book a read—if you can find the time.”
--David Crumm, Detroit Free Press

“Paperback pick of the week.”
--The Seattle Times

“On time, out of time, time out, time is money--if our vernacular is any indication, the concept of time has certainly infiltrated American culture. Does everybody in the world share the same perception of time? In A Geography of Time, psychologist Robert Levine puts time to the test by sending teams of researchers all over the world to measure everything from the average walking speed to the time it takes to buy a stamp at the post office. Levine scatters his findings among engaging accounts of his own encounters with the various perceptions of time in different cultures. From the history of clocks to how people tell time today, A Geography of Time is jam-packed with "timely" information.“
--Amazon.com

“Not limited by conventional notions of time?or "clock time," as he calls it? Levine (psychology, California State Univ., Fresno) presents a wide-ranging work loosely organized around a social construct of time. The result is an intellectualized "places-rated" guide containing observations on where people are the most generous and talk the fastest, as well as discussions of how "time wars" are waged and deeper insights into South American, Japanese, and other cultures through their perception of time.
-- Library Journal

“He's got a funny, self-deprecating way with a travel anecdote.... This tome is well worth a chunk of your [time]. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.”
-- Entertainment Weekly

“The turning point in the author's own developing awareness of temporal issues occurred in Brazil, where he spent a year as a visiting professor ... a nice chapter on the history of the mechanical clock.”
--Ed Regis, The New York Times Book Review

“Levine has fashioned an entertaining book that examines the history of time, timekeeping, and the various ways that time is experienced in different cultures. Using clever anecdotes and comparisons between hectic U.S. lifestyles and those of other more relaxed cultures, Levine contends that by learning to understand and accept three different perceptions of time--"clock time," "nature time," and "event time"--we can begin to experience a more flexible and rewarding life. Scholarly yet still informative, this book contains valuable perspectives and lessons for those caught up in and frustrated by the hectic modern lifestyle.”
--Kathleen Hughes, Booklist

“An amusing, informative account of how different cultures and subcultures have different concepts of time. Social psychologist Levine (Calif. State Univ., Fresno) loves anecdotes that illustrate a point, and he packs his report with stories about the frustrations of living in a culture where one is unfamiliar with the rules about waiting, punctuality, and time measurement. As a scientist, though, he employs objective tests to measure these temporal differences. . .The results are fascinating. . . Levine concludes with advice for the time-urgent when visiting slower-paced cultures and about taking control of one's own pace of life. Recommended for all time-pressured type As.
-- Kirkus Reviews

“This goes beyond a travelogue or a psychology text but combines elements of both, presenting a psychologist's travels around the world and his insights into how different cultures perceive and use time. Travel encounters are always spiced with social and cultural issues and understanding, making for lively and informative reading.”
-- Midwest Book Review

“Exceptionally interesting and readable. I recommend it highly.”
--Richard Block, Time’s News

“The book will help us think about and question how we conduct our research and our personal lives.”
--Edward Diener, Contemporary Psychology (featured review)

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