, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp 972-982

The influence of affective factors on time perception


Several studies have suggested that both affective valence and arousal affect the perception of time. However, in previous experiments, the two affective dimensions have not been systematically controlled. In this study, standardized photographic slides rated for emotional valence and arousal were projected to two groups of subjects for 2, 4, and 6 sec. One group of subjects estimated the projection duration on an analog scale, whereas the second group of subjects reproduced the intervals by pushing a button. Heart rate and skin conductance responses were also recorded during stimulus presentation as indices of attention and arousal. Time estimation results showed neither a main effect of valence nor a main effect of arousal. A highly significant valence × arousal interaction affected duration judgments. For low-arousal stimuli, the duration of negative slides was judged relatively shorter than the duration of positive slides. For high-arousal stimuli, the duration of negative slides was judged longer than the duration of positive slides. The same interaction pattern was observed across judgment modalities. These results are interpreted in terms of a model of action tendency, in which the level of arousal controls two different motivational mechanisms, one emotional and the other attentional.