Time in perspective

Psychol Sci. 2013 Aug;24(8):1477-86. doi: 10.1177/0956797612473486. Epub 2013 Jun 17.


Perceptions of time and space are subject to strong contextual effects. Like their physical counterparts, they appear to be bound together. The perceived spatial extent of a constant retinal extent increases with its perceived distance from the observer. The perceived duration of a moving object increases with its covered angular trajectory. It follows that the perceived duration of moving objects covering identical angular trajectories should also increase with distance. Using three-dimensionally rendered balls rolling for 600 ms, 900 ms, and 1,200 ms and covering 5.5°, 11°, and 22° trajectories in fronto-parallel planes of a linear-perspective scene, we showed that perceived duration dilates by up to 50% as the fronto-parallel plane of the rolling ball recedes from the observer. Such time dilation is mostly contributed to by the smaller size of the distant ball. As in a three-dimensional world, objects' sizes and their covered trajectories per time unit decrease with distance, and as the two factors lead to opposite perceived-duration effects, the results suggest a form of time constancy in a three-dimensional world.

Keywords: Kappa effect; Ponzo illusion; cognition; linear perspective; perceived duration; speed/time constancy; time estimation; time perception; visual perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Distance Perception / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult