When time flies: how abstract and concrete mental construal affect the perception of time

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2013 May;142(2):336-47. doi: 10.1037/a0029283. Epub 2012 Jul 16.


Time is experienced as passing more quickly the more changes happen in a situation. The present research tested the idea that time perception depends on the level of construal of the situation. Building on previous research showing that concrete rather than abstract mental construal causes people to perceive more variations in a given situation, we found in 3 studies that participants in a concrete mind-set experienced time as passing more quickly than participants in an abstract mind-set. In 2 further studies we demonstrated that the level on which actual changes happen in a given situation moderated this effect: Changes in high-level aspects mainly affected time estimation of participants primed with an abstract mind-set, whereas changes in low-level aspects affected time estimation of participants primed with a concrete mind-set.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thinking*
  • Time Perception*