The perception of duration and the judgment of the passage of time

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Time psychology distinguishes between two main types of perception or judgment about time. First, the perception of duration—in other words, the manner in which we are able to judge how long an interval, a stimuli or an event lasted. This type of judgment is further divided between prospective and retrospective judgments of duration. In prospective timing, one knows that one will be required to make a judgment of duration ahead of the event: for example, ‘listen to this piece of music, when it is finished you will be asked how long it was’. In retrospective timing, people judge the duration of an event when they did not know that they would be asked, for example, ‘How long have you been reading this abstract?’ The perception of duration has been investigated a great deal by psychologists, and we have some excellent functional models describing the characteristics of the mechanisms. The most successful model revolves around the notion of an internal pacemaker-accumulator clock. The neural underpinnings of the mechanism remain obscure, but some progress has been made. The second type of judgments are ‘passage of time judgments (POJs). These are judgements of how quickly time seems to pass in any given situation, not a judgement of their duration (although often they are expressed in that way, e.g., ‘that lecture felt like 4hrs long’). POJs are more of a ‘feeling’ judgment and seem to be a hedonistic expression of boredom, engagement or frustration. POJs have also been investigated experimentally, and we have some insights into how they may relate to the perception of duration. This chapter will explore these judgments, their mechanism, the relationship between them and how successful they are in explaining the everyday experiences of time that people report.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe illusions of time
Subtitle of host publicationphilosophical and psychological essays on timing and time perception
EditorsValtteri Arstila, Adrian Bardon, Sean Enda Power, Argiro Vatakis
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783030220488
ISBN (Print)9783030220471
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2019


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