Human time perception and its illusions

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008 Apr;18(2):131-6. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2008.06.002. Epub 2008 Aug 8.


Why does a clock sometimes appear stopped? Is it possible to perceive the world in slow motion during a car accident? Can action and effect be reversed? Time perception is surprisingly prone to measurable distortions and illusions. The past few years have introduced remarkable progress in identifying and quantifying temporal illusions of duration, temporal order, and simultaneity. For example, perceived durations can be distorted by saccades, by an oddball in a sequence, or by stimulus complexity or magnitude. Temporal order judgments of actions and sensations can be reversed by the exposure to delayed motor consequences, and simultaneity judgments can be manipulated by repeated exposure to nonsimultaneous stimuli. The confederacy of recently discovered illusions points to the underlying neural mechanisms of time perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Illusions / psychology
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology