Faster is briefer: The symbolic meaning of speed influences time perception

Psychon Bull Rev. 2015 Oct;22(5):1285-91. doi: 10.3758/s13423-015-0815-6.


The present study investigates how the symbolic meaning of the stimuli presented for marking time intervals affects perceived duration. Participants were engaged in a time bisection task in which they were first trained with two standard durations, 400 ms and 1600 ms, and then asked to judge if the following temporal intervals were closer to the short or to the long standard. Stimuli were images of vehicles representing speed, with a motorbike representing fastness and a bicycle representing slowness. Results showed that presenting images with different speed meanings affects time perception: an image representing a fast object, the motorbike, leads to shorter perceived time than presenting an image representing a slower object, the bicycle. This finding is attributed to an impact on the memory mechanism involved in the processing of temporal information.

Keywords: Bisection task; Symbolic meaning of speed; Time perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Symbolism*
  • Time Perception*
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult