Lifting, tasting, and carrying: The interaction of magnitude and valence effects in time perception

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2019 Feb;193:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2018.11.010. Epub 2018 Dec 12.


Magnitude effects (e.g., heavier or faster is longer) and valence effects (e.g., negative > positive) are widely observed in time perception studies, but not well understood. In four experiments, we explored how different action contexts (e.g., tasting, lifting) affected magnitude and valence effects. In two experiments a valence effect occurred: Tasting a sweet food (watermelon) led to temporal underestimations relative to a neutral stimulus, while sour and bitter foods led to overestimations. However, when the same foods were presented in a lifting context a magnitude effect occurred: Reproduced times for the heavier food (watermelon) were overestimated relative to the lighter foods. In a fourth experiment magnitude and valence interacted: Imagining tasting increasing amounts of lemon or carrying increasing loads of lemon, both negative, yielded magnitude effects; however, imagining carrying lemons to feed malnourished people, which was positive, did not. Results present challenges for several common theoretical approaches (e.g., arousal, attention, common magnitude theory) but provide support for affordance theory and perceptual salience theory. Timing depends on action relevance and is jointly shaped by valence and magnitude.

Keywords: Action; Affordances; Context effects; Magnitude; Time perception; Valence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lifting*
  • Male
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology
  • Young Adult