Perception of social interaction compresses subjective duration in an oxytocin-dependent manner

Elife. 2018 May 22;7:e32100. doi: 10.7554/eLife.32100.


Communication through body gestures permeates our daily life. Efficient perception of the message therein reflects one's social cognitive competency. Here we report that such competency is manifested temporally as shortened subjective duration of social interactions: motion sequences showing agents acting communicatively are perceived to be significantly shorter in duration as compared with those acting noncommunicatively. The strength of this effect is negatively correlated with one's autistic-like tendency. Critically, intranasal oxytocin administration restores the temporal compression effect in socially less proficient individuals, whereas the administration of atosiban, a competitive antagonist of oxytocin, diminishes the effect in socially proficient individuals. These findings indicate that perceived time, rather than being a faithful representation of physical time, is highly idiosyncratic and ingrained with one's personality trait. Moreover, they suggest that oxytocin is involved in mediating time perception of social interaction, further supporting the role of oxytocin in human social cognition.

Keywords: autism spectrum quotient; human; neuroscience; oxytocin; social interaction; temporal perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Perception*
  • Vasotocin / administration & dosage
  • Vasotocin / analogs & derivatives
  • Young Adult


  • atosiban
  • Oxytocin
  • Vasotocin

Grant support

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.