Dilation and Constriction of Subjective Time Based on Observed Walking Speed

Front Psychol. 2018 Dec 21;9:2565. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02565. eCollection 2018.


The physical properties of events are known to modulate perceived time. This study tested the effect of different quantitative (walking speed) and qualitative (walking-forward vs. walking-backward) features of observed motion on time perception in three complementary experiments. Participants were tested in the temporal discrimination (bisection) task, in which they were asked to categorize durations of walking animations as "short" or "long." We predicted the faster observed walking to speed up temporal integration and thereby to shift the point of subjective equality leftward, and this effect to increase monotonically with increasing walking speed. To this end, we tested participants with two different ranges of walking speeds in Experiment 1 and 2 and observed a parametric effect of walking speed on perceived time irrespective of the direction of walking (forward vs. rewound forward walking). Experiment 3 contained a more plausible backward walking animation compared to the rewound walking animation used in Experiments 1 and 2 (as validated based on independent subjective ratings). The effect of walking-speed and the lack of the effect of walking direction on perceived time were replicated in Experiment 3. Our results suggest a strong link between the speed but not the direction of perceived biological motion and subjective time.

Keywords: biological motion; psychophysics; speed; temporal bisection; time perception.