Mental Representations of Weekdays
Keeping social appointments involves keeping track of what day it is. In practice, mismatches between apparent day and actual day are common. For example, a person might think the current day is Wednesday when in fact it is Thursday. Here we show that such mismatches are highly systematic, and can be traced to specific properties of their mental representations. In Study 1, mismatches between apparent day and actual day occurred more frequently on midweek days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) than on other days, and were mainly due to intrusions from immediately neighboring days. In Study 2, reaction times to report the current day were fastest on Monday and Friday, and slowest midweek. In Study 3, participants generated fewer semantic associations for “Tuesday”, “Wednesday” and “Thursday” than for other weekday names. Similarly, Google searches found fewer occurrences of midweek days in webpages and books. Analysis of affective norms revealed that participants’ associations were strongly negative for Monday, strongly positive for Friday, and graded over the intervening days. Midweek days are confusable because their mental representations are sparse and similar. Mondays and Fridays are less confusable because their mental representations are rich and distinctive, forming two extremes along a continuum of change.