Auditory chronostasis: hanging on the telephone

Curr Biol. 2002 Oct 15;12(20):1779-81. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(02)01219-8.


The perception of time can be illusory: we have all waited anxiously for important seconds to tick away slowly at the end of a football game and have experienced the truth of the adage "time flies when you're having fun." One illusion of time experience that has recently been investigated, the apparent slowing of the movement of the second hand on the clock when one first looks at it, has been termed "chronostasis," and it has been suggested that the effect is unique to vision and is dependent on eye movements. We sought to test whether the effect is really unique to vision or whether it can also be produced with auditory stimuli. Subjects were asked to judge the length of a silent gap between two tones presented through headphones. When the tones were presented to one ear, subjects judged the duration of the gap veridically. When subjects were required to shift concentration from one ear to the other, however, the judgement of time showed that the auditory system is also susceptible to chronostasis. We suggest that this generalization of chronostasis to another sensory system is consistent with theories of time perception that emphasize a single, multimodal clock for duration estimation rather than a mechanism that is dependent on motor acts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Illusions
  • Telephone*
  • Time*