Dispositional Mindfulness and Subjective Time in Healthy Individuals

Front Psychol. 2016 May 31;7:786. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00786. eCollection 2016.


How a human observer perceives duration depends on the amount of events taking place during the timed interval, but also on psychological dimensions, such as emotional-wellbeing, mindfulness, impulsivity, and rumination. Here we aimed at exploring these influences on duration estimation and passage of time judgments. One hundred and seventeen healthy individuals filled out mindfulness (FFMQ), impulsivity (BIS-11), rumination (RRS), and depression (BDI-sf) questionnaires. Participants also conducted verbal estimation and production tasks in the multiple seconds range. During these timing tasks, subjects were asked to read digits aloud that were presented on a computer screen. Each condition of the timing tasks differed in terms of the interval between the presentation of the digits, i.e., either short (4-s) or long (16-s). Our findings suggest that long empty intervals (16-s) are associated with a relative underestimation of duration, and to a feeling that the time passes slowly, a seemingly paradoxical result. Also, regarding more mindful individuals, such a dissociation between duration estimation and passage of time judgments was found, but only when empty intervals were short (4-s). Relatively speaking, more mindful subjects showed an increased overestimation of durations, but felt that time passed more quickly. These results provide further evidence for the dissociation between duration estimation and the feeling of the passage of time. We discuss these results in terms of an alerting effect when empty intervals are short and events are more numerous, which could mediate the effect of dispositional mindfulness.

Keywords: dispositional mindfulness; duration estimation; duration production; passage of time; time perception.