Tag Archives: Time perception

Reduce “Time Famine” By Doing for Others

Feeling “starved for time,” with “too much to do and too little time to do it”? University of Michigan’s Leslie Perlow identified the subjective experience “time famine” among software engineers, whose productivity was reduced based on frequent interruptions by others, a pervasive “crisis mentality,” rewards linked to “individual heroics.”

Cassie Moligner

Cassie Moligner

One counterintuitive remedy for “time famine” is giving time by helping other people.
This use of time increased feelings of “time affluence” in a study by Wharton’s Cassie MolignerZoë Chance of Yaleand Harvard’s Michael I. Norton.

Ernst Pöppel

Ernst Pöppel

Volunteers judged that they “did a lot with their time,” and had more available time when they helped others.
Mogilner and colleagues analyzed people’s elementary time experiences,” described by Ernst Pöppel of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

Francis Wade

Francis Wade

As Francis Wade of 2Time Labs pointed out, people cannot increase actual chronological time, but individual time experiences can vary based on physiological state, emotion, and context.

Moligner’s team compared people’s perceptions of time abundance when they:

  • Did something for someone else by writing an encouraging note to a gravely ill child or helping an at-risk student by editing his or her research essay for 15 minutes,
  • Spent 10 minutes doing something “for yourself that you weren’t already planning to do today,”
  • Spent 30 minutes doing something for someone else “that you weren’t already planning to do today,”
  • “Wasted” time on a low-meaning task by counting the letter “e” in multiple pages of Latin text,
  • Gained unexpected “free” time when they learned that “all essays had been edited,” so they could leave early.

Spending time on others seemed to “expand the future” and increase the perceived amount of available time, compared with spending time on oneself or “finding” free time.
In fact, people who unexpectedly gained fifteen minutes actually spent less time on a later required task than those who invested time helping another person.
This suggests that spending time pro-socially may increase one’s future work efforts, whereas finding free time may diminish work motivation.

Michael DeDonno

Michael DeDonno

Perceived time pressure undermined learning performance more than actual time constraints on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), found Florida Atlantic University’s Michael DeDonno and Heath Demaree of Case Western.

The team told more than 80 volunteers that time available for the task was “insufficient,” whereas they advised another group of more than 80 people that they had “sufficient” time to complete the task.
The time available to both groups was identical and adequate to complete the IGT, which asks participants to select from four decks of cards to win as much “money” as possible.

Heath Demaree

Heath Demaree

Two of the decks yield higher payoffs or “positive utility” whereas the remaining two decks render less favorable winnings, offering “negative utility.”
To win, participant learn which decks offer the greatest payoff in the shortest time for 100 trials.

Each group of more than 80 volunteers was separated into two sub-groups given different amounts of time between card selections to consider the task, while the total time available remained the same.

People who thought they had insufficient time for the task achieved lower payoff than volunteers who believed they had enough time.
Since both groups had the same amount of time, the performance difference was attributed to their beliefs about time constraints, suggesting the importance of focusing on the task rather than on potential time limits.

Steven J. Karau

Steven J. Karau

Actual time constraints affected both group interactions and task performance in a planning task evaluated by Southern Illinois University’s Steven J Karau and Janice R Kelly of Purdue.

They asked 36 groups of three volunteers to complete a planning task while group interactions were videotaped and coded using the Time-by-Event-by-Member Pattern Observation (TEMPO) system, developed by Texas Tech’s Gail Clark Futoran, Janice Kelly of Purdue, and University of Illinois’s Joseph McGrath.

Gail Clark Futoran

Gail Clark Futoran

Twelve of the groups had inadequate time, whereas another twelve groups had optimal time for task completion, and the final twelve groups has more than enough time.

Group performance was evaluated based on:

  • Length,
  • Originality,
  • Creativity,
  • Adequacy,
  • Issue Involvement,
  • Presentation quality,
  • Optimism,
  • Action orientation.

The groups that had greater time constraints actually focused less on the task than groups with more time, supporting Karau and Kelly’s recommendation to maintain task focus when performance time is limited to optimize performance.

Janice Kelly

Janice Kelly

Time constraints differentially affected each performance evaluation, and one way to mitigate the impact of time constraints is to shift focus from perceived time scarcity and stress to attend to the task.

-*How do you maintain task focus when perceiving time pressure?

-*To what extent does investing time in other people give you the sense of greater “time abundance”?

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How the Brain Perceives Time So You Can Manage Time Demands, not Time

Many daily actions like perceiving through the senses, speaking, and walking require accurate timing, often to milliseconds.

These underlying brain mechanisms are crucial to determining causality, decoding temporal patterns, and managing “time demands,” a commitment to complete a task in the future.

Francis Wade

Francis Wade

Francis Wade suggests conducting a systemic diagnostic assessment of current time demand management practices to identify effective approaches, and those that can benefit from fine-tuning.
This leads to a plan that requires external support from people and technology.

But these processes depend on the brain’s accurate time perception.
-*How does the brain perceive time?

David Eagleman

David Eagleman

Baylor College of Medicine’s David M. Eagleman summarized extensive research that answers this question, with collaboration from Peter U. Tse of Dartmouth, UCLA’s Dean Buonomano, Peter Janssen of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, University of Oxford’s Anna Christina Nobre, and Alex O. Holcombe of Cardiff University.

Peter Tse

Peter Tse

One recent change to the prevailing view that the basal ganglia and cerebellar systems are the brain’s main timekeepers comes from University of New Mexico’s Deborah L. Harrington and Kathleen Y. Haaland.

Kathleen Haaland

Kathleen Haaland

They built on this finding in work with Robert T. Knight of University of California, Davis, investigating the cerebral cortex’s role in perceptual timekeeping by studying task performance of volunteers with focal left (LHD) or right hemisphere (RHD) lesions compared with uninjured participants.

Robert T. Knight

Robert T. Knight

The groups performed a time duration perception task and a frequency perception task, which controlled for non-time processes in both tasks.
Only people with right hemisphere cerebral cortex lesions showed time perception deficits, suggesting that this area also contributes to perceptual timekeeping

People with this damage who accurately perceived time were also able to switch nonspatial attention, implying that time perception and attention switching are linked.
This group had no damage in the premotor and prefrontal cortex, in contrast to those who performed poorly on the time perception.
These results indicate that premotor and prefrontal cortex areas also contribute to accurate time perception.

Richard Ivry

Richard Ivry

Neural systems underlying timing processes may point to remedies for brain injuries that involve motor timing irregularities such as Parkinson’s disease, according to UC Berkeley’s Richard Ivry and Rebecca Spencer of UMass.  

Rebecca Spencer

Rebecca Spencer

Medical University of South Carolina’s Catalin V. Buhusi and
 Warren H. Meck of Duke University suggest that subjective time perception or psychological time is represented by multiple “internal clocks” that judge duration relative to the relevant time context.

Catalin V. Buhusi

Catalin V. Buhusi

Richard Ivry reported that the cerebellum can be considered as operating multiple “internal clocks,” suggesting a physiological basis for Buhusi and Meck’s multi-clock construct.

-*How do you manage time demands for future performance?

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Biased Time Perception – Mind Time, Clock Time, and Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Eminent physicist and everyone’s favorite genius, Albert Einstein, suggested that most people have a biased perception of time: “The distinction between past, present and future is an illusion, although a persistent one.”

Molly Harrower

Molly Harrower

More than half a century after Einstein’s groundbreaking theories of relativity a pioneering psychologist   Rorschach expert Molly Harrower illustrated the emotional component of time perception in a poem she wrote during a time of personal transition and loss:

Molly Harrower-Therapy of poetryAccording to Einstein,
The faster we travel
The slower time passes
But the loneliness factor
Is constant

Wilhelm Wundt

Wilhelm Wundt

By the time that Harrower published her The Therapy of Poetry in 1972, experimental psychologists from Wilhelm Wundt to Paul Fraisse and Kurt Lewin measured the psychophysics of time perceptions.

Philip Zimbardo

Philip Zimbardo

Stanford’s Philip Zimbardo with John Boyd extended this work to demonstrate how time perspective – whether past, present or future and tinged with negative or positive emotion – is related to differences in school completion, health behaviors including smoking, drinking, drug use, contraception and driving, coping with homelessness and job search.

John Boyd

John Boyd

Zimbardo became well-known following the disturbing results of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and later began investigating subjective Time Perspective (TP) using a self-report inventory

They identified six time perspectives:

  • Positive Past
  • Negative Past
  • Hedonistic Present
  • Fatalist Present
  • Future
  • Transcendental Future

Philip Zimbardo - Ideal Time PerspectiveZimbardo and Boyd suggested an optimal orientation to time includes a calibrated perspective across the six time orientations.

Citing his own childhood in the South Bronx, Zimbardo argued that schools convert Present Hedonists into Future-oriented time perceivers, and increase opportunities for economic advancement.

Robert Levine

Robert Levine

Robert Levine of California State University, Fresno, differentiated among measured time and subjective time by defining:

  • Clock time
  • Event time
  • Natural time

He asked how people use time in different regions, and the impact of these choices on relationships and health.
Like Zimbardo and Boyd, he advocates developing the ability to move across time orientations and time-related behaviors.

Claudia Hammond

Claudia Hammond

Some of these time perspectives can include subjective biases, including an “elastic” experience of time – sometimes shorter or longer than clock time, according to the BBC’s Claudia Hammond.

She identified several biases in time perception, such as overestimating elapsed time during a frightening experience and shortening of perceived time during a pleasant experience or as one ages.

Douwe Draaisma

Douwe Draaisma

One explanation for the feeling like time accelerates as one gets older is the “proportionality theory“, according to University of Groningen’s Douwe Draaisma.

In this view, a year – 365 days most years – can feel brief when one is 40 years old and has already lived almost 14,600 days.
The same year might feel longer to an 8 year old who had lived almost 2920 days, because it is a larger proportion of experienced time.

Vincent Prohaska

Vincent Prohaska

Another time perception bias is “forward telescoping,” the feeling that past events occurred more recently than they actually did, according to Lehman College’s Vincent Prohaska with colleagues Norman Brown and Robert Belli.
Reverse telescoping” refers to past events of the same elapsed time that seem to have taken place even longer ago.

The Holiday Paradox is another time perception anomaly in which time away from one’s usual routine feeling like it passed both quickly and occurred over a long period of time, perhaps due to the concentration of new experiences and the need to concentrate on processing novel information.

Similarly, “Reminiscence Bump” enables many people to recall experiences between 15 and 25, including prominent news events and cultural trends including music, attire, interests.

University of Chicago’s Norman Bradburn suggested that these distortions may occur because many experiences during memorable or “critical” developmental periods are usually novel, distinctive, personally-involving, and emotionally-tinged.

Because these events were memorable, they may seem to have occurred more recently because people often associate clearer memories with more recent occurrences.
This “inner chronometry” of time tracking can be distorted by emotions, attention, expectations, task demands, and even ambient temperature, according to “the Clarity Hypothesis” to explain these perceptual biases.

-*How do you mitigate time biases?
-*How have you seen these time biases affect and relate to other areas of life?

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