Relations between emotion, memory encoding, and time perception

Cogn Emot. 2019 Mar;33(2):185-196. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2018.1435506. Epub 2018 Feb 7.


This study examined duration judgments for taboo and neutral words in prospective and retrospective timing tasks. In the prospective task, participants attended to time from the beginning and generated shorter duration estimates for taboo than neutral words and for words that they subsequently recalled in a surprise free recall task. These findings suggested that memory encoding took priority over estimating durations, directing attention away from time and causing better recall but shorter perceived durations for taboo than neutral words. However, in the retrospective task, participants only judged durations in a surprise test at the end, and their duration estimates were longer for taboo than neutral words. Present findings therefore suggest that the same emotion-linked memory encoding processes can cause underestimation of durations in prospective tasks but overestimation in retrospective tasks, as if emotion enhances recall of ongoing events but causes overestimation of the durations of those events in retrospect.

Keywords: Attention; emotion; memory; prospective versus retrospective duration judgments; time perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Taboo / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult