Color and time perception: Evidence for temporal overestimation of blue stimuli

Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 26;8(1):1688. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-19892-z.


The perceived duration of a visual stimulus depends on various features, such as its size, shape, and movement. Potential effects of stimulus color have not been investigated in sufficient detail yet, but the well-known effects of arousal on time perception suggest that arousing hues, such as red, might induce an overestimation of duration. By means of a two-interval duration discrimination task in the sub-second range, we investigated whether participants overestimate the duration of red stimuli in comparison to blue stimuli, while controlling for differences in brightness (individual adjustments by means of flicker photometry) and saturation (colorimetric adjustment in terms of the CIELAB color space). Surprisingly, our results show an overestimation of the duration of blue compared to red stimuli (indicated by a shift of the point of subjective equality), even though the red stimuli were rated as being more arousing. The precision (variability) of duration judgments, i.e., the duration difference limen, did not differ between red and blue stimuli, questioning an explanation in terms of attentional processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color Perception*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Time Perception*
  • Young Adult