Slow motion in films and video clips: Music influences perceived duration and emotion, autonomic physiological activation and pupillary responses

PLoS One. 2018 Jun 22;13(6):e0199161. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199161. eCollection 2018.


Slow motion scenes are ubiquitous in screen-based audiovisual media and are typically accompanied by emotional music. The strong effects of slow motion on observers are hypothetically related to heightened emotional states in which time seems to pass more slowly. These states are simulated in films and video clips, and seem to resemble such experiences in daily life. The current study investigated time perception and emotional response to media clips containing decelerated human motion, with or without music using psychometric and psychophysiological testing methods. Participants were presented with slow-motion scenes taken from commercial films, ballet and sports footage, as well as the same scenes converted to real-time. Results reveal that slow-motion scenes, compared to adapted real-time scenes, led to systematic underestimations of duration, lower perceived arousal but higher valence, lower respiration rates and smaller pupillary diameters. The presence of music compared to visual-only presentations strongly affected results in terms of higher accuracy in duration estimates, higher perceived arousal and valence, higher physiological activation and larger pupillary diameters, indicating higher arousal. Video genre affected responses in addition. These findings suggest that perceiving slow motion is not related to states of high arousal, but rather affects cognitive dimensions of perceived time and valence. Music influences these experiences profoundly, thus strengthening the impact of stretched time in audiovisual media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Motion Pictures
  • Music
  • Psychophysiology
  • Reflex, Pupillary / physiology
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was supported by a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council to the first author. The research is part of the five-years project “Slow motion: Transformations of musical time in perception and performance” (SloMo; Grant no. 725319). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.