Modulations in the Experience of Duration

  • Marc WittmannEmail author
  • Tijana Jokic
  • Eric Pfeifer


The subjective experience of duration varies considerably depending upon fluctuating mental states. When feeling bored, time seems to slow down, and duration expands. When we are entertained, time passes quickly. We propose that felt time is modulated together with the awareness of the bodily self. Regarding inter-individual differences in the perception of time, we recently showed that individuals with higher levels of self-reported impulsivity felt more irritated in a waiting situation and in turn overestimated its duration. Regarding intra-individual differences, we showed that silence after body-related depth relaxation led to longer duration estimates than the same period of silence following a seminar. Our studies concerning longer duration in the minute range are paradigmatic as the ecologically valid situations are sensitive to inter- and intra-individual variations in subjective time.


  1. Baumann, A. A., & Odum, A. L. (2012). Impulsivity, risk taking, and timing. Behavioral Processes, 90, 408–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkovich-Ohana, A., Dor-Ziderman, Y., Glicksohn, J., & Goldstein, A. (2013). Alterations in the sense of time, space, and body in the mindfulness-trained brain: A neurophenomenologically-guided MEG study. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berkovich-Ohana, A., & Glicksohn, J. (2014). The consciousness state space—A unifying model for consciousness and self. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Block, R. A. (1979). Time and consciousness. In G. Underwood & R. Stevens (Eds.), Aspects of consciousness (Vol. 1, pp. 179–217). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bradley, M. M., & Lang, P. J. (1994). Measuring emotion: The self-assessment manikin and the semantic differential. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 25, 49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buhusi, C. V., Oprisan, S. A., & Buhusi, M. (2018). Biological and cognitive frameworks for a mental timeline. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, 377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buzsáki, G. (2006). Rhythms of the brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cellini, N., Mioni, G., Levorato, I., Grondin, S., Stablum, F., & Sarlo, M. (2015). Heart rate variability helps tracking time more accurately. Brain and Cognition, 101, 57–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Craig, A. D. (2009). Emotional moments across time: A possible neural basis for time perception in the anterior insula. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364, 1933–1942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Craig, A. D. (2015). How do you feel? An interoceptive moment with your neurobiological self. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. S. (1988). Optimal experience: Psychological studies of flow in consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Danckert, J. A., & Allman, A. A. A. (2005). Time flies when you’re having fun: Temporal estimation and the experience of boredom. Brain and Cognition, 59, 236–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Decker-Voigt, H.-H. (2007). Methodology of music therapy and depth relaxation (DRMT). In I. Frohne-Hagemann (Ed.), Zeitpunkt Musik. Receptive music therapy: Theory and practice (pp. 239–251). Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.Google Scholar
  14. Deinzer, V., Clancy, L., & Wittmann, M. (2017). The sense of time while watching a dance performance. SAGE Open, 7(4), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dirnberger, G., Hesselmann, G., Roiser, J. P., Preminger, S., Jahanshahi, M., & Paz, R. (2012). Give it time: Neural evidence for distorted time perception and enhanced memory encoding in emotional situations. Neuroimage, 63, 591–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Droit-Volet, S., Fanget, M., & Dambrun, M. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and relaxation training increases time sensitivity. Consciousness and Cognition, 31, 86–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Droit-Volet, S., & Gil, S. (2009). The time-emotion paradox. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364, 1943–1954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Droit-Volet, S., Monceau, S., Berthon, M., Trahanias, P., & Maniadakis, M. (2018). The explicit judgment of long durations of several minutes in everyday life: Conscious retrospective memory judgment and the role of affects? PLoS One, 13, e0195397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fink, M., Ulbrich, P., Churan, J., & Wittmann, M. (2006). Stimulus-dependent processing of temporal order. Behavioural Processes, 71, 344–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garfinkel, S. N., Minati, L., Gray, M. A., Seth, A. K., Dolan, R. J., & Critchley, H. D. (2014). Fear from the heart: Sensitivity to fear stimuli depends on individual heartbeats. Journal of Neuroscience, 34, 6573–6582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gelernter, D. (2016). The tides of mind. Uncovering the spectrum of consciousness. New York: Liveright.Google Scholar
  22. Golombek, D. A., Bussi, I. L., & Agostino, P. V. (2014). Minutes, days and years: Molecular interactions among different scales of biological timing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 369, 20120465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grabot, L., & van Wassenhove, V. (2017). Time order as psychological bias. Psychological Science, 28, 670–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hölzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 537–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jokic, T., Zakay, D., & Wittmann, M. (2018). Individual differences in self-rated impulsivity modulate the estimation of time in a real waiting situation. Timing & Time Perception, 6, 71–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kononowicz, T. W., & van Rijn, H. (2015). Single trial beta oscillations index time estimation. Neuropsychologia, 75, 381–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kramer, R. S. S., Weger, U. W., & Sharma, D. (2013). The effect of mindfulness meditation on time perception. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 846–852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Matthias, E., Schandry, R., Duschek, S., & Pollatos, O. (2009). On the relationship between interoceptive awareness and the attentional processing of visual stimuli. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 72, 154–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Meissner, K., & Wittmann, M. (2011). Body signals, cardiac awareness, and the perception of time. Biological Psychology, 86, 289–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Merchant, H., Harrington, D. L., & Meck, W. H. (2013). Neural basis of the perception and estimation of time. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 36, 313–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moreira, D., Pinto, M., Almeida, F., & Barbosa, F. (2016). Time perception deficits in impulsivity disorders: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 27, 87–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mueller, A. K., Berger, J., Tucha, O., & Falter, C. M. (2014). Selective impairment of timing functions in non-clinical impulsiveness. Timing & Time Perception, 2, 20–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Münsterberg, H. (1889). Beiträge zur experimentellen Psychologie, Heft 2. Freiburg: J.C.B. Mohr.Google Scholar
  34. Nobre, K., & Coull, J. (2010). Attention and time. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Northoff, G. (2014). Unlocking the brain volume 2: Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Otten, S., Schötz, E., Wittmann, M., Kohls, N., Schmidt, S., & Meissner, K. (2015). Psychophysiology of duration estimation in experienced mindfulness meditators and matched controls. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pavlov, I. (1928). Conditioned reflexes. An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex. London: Oxford University Press, Humphrey Milford.Google Scholar
  38. Pedrosa, D. J., Nelles, C., Maier, F., Eggers, C., Burghaus, L., Fink, G. R., … Timmermann, L. (2016). Variance of essential tremor patients’ time reproduction deficits. Movement Disorders, 31, 1428–1429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pfeifer, E., Sarikaya, A., & Wittmann, M. (2016). Changes in states of consciousness during a period of silence after a session of depth relaxation music therapy (DRMT). Music and Medicine, 8(4), 180–186.Google Scholar
  40. Pollatos, O., Laubrock, J., & Wittmann, M. (2014). Interoceptive focus shapes the experience of time. PLoS One, 9(1), e86934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pollatos, O., Yeldesbay, A., Pikovsky, A., & Rosenblum, M. (2014). How much time has passed? Ask your heart. Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 8, 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Retz Lucci, C. (2013). Time, self, and intertemporal choice. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7, 40.Google Scholar
  43. Roenneberg, T., Daan, S., & Merrow, M. (2003). The art of entrainment. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 18, 183–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schäfer, T., Fachner, J., & Smukalla, M. (2013). Changes in the representation of space and time while listening to music. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 508.Google Scholar
  45. Shanon, B. (2001). Altered temporality. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, 35–58.Google Scholar
  46. Studerus, E., Gamma, A., Kometer, M., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2012). Prediction of psilocybin response in healthy volunteers. PLoS One, 7(2), e30800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Todes, D. P. (2014). Ivan Pavlov. A Russian life in science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Turel, O., & Bechara, A. (2016). A triadic reflective-impulsive-interoceptive awareness model of general and impulsive information system use: Behavioral tests of neuro-cognitive theory. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 601.Google Scholar
  49. Vaitl, D., Birbaumer, N., Gruzelier, J., Jamieson, G. A., Kotchoubey, B., Kübler, A., … Sammer, G. (2005). Psychobiology of altered states of consciousness. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 98–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. van Wassenhove, V. (2016). Temporal cognition and neural oscillations. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 8, 124–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wackermann, J., Meissner, K., Tankersley, D., & Wittmann, M. (2014). Effects of emotional valence and arousal on acoustic duration reproduction assessed via the ‘dual klepsydra model. Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 8, 11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Watt, J. D. (1991). Effect of boredom proneness on time perception. Psychological Reports, 69, 323–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wearden, J. H. (2015). Passage of time judgments. Consciousness and Cognition, 38, 165–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Weiner, L., Wittmann, M., Bertschy, G., & Giersch, A. (2016). Dispositional mindfulness and subjective time in healthy individuals. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wittmann, M. (2013). The inner sense of time: How the brain creates a representation of duration. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14, 217–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wittmann, M. (2015). Modulations of the experience of self and time. Consciousness and Cognition, 38, 172–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wittmann, M. (2016). Felt time. The science of how we experience time. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  58. Wittmann, M. (2018). Altered states of consciousness: Experiences out of time and self. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wittmann, M., Dinich, J., Merrow, M., & Roenneberg, T. (2006). Social jetlag: Misalignment of biological and social time. Chronobiology International, 23, 497–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wittmann, M., & Meissner, K. (2018). The embodiment of time: How interoception shapes the perception of time. In M. Tsakiris & H. de Preester (Eds.), The interoceptive mind—From homeostasis to awareness (pp. 63–79). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Wittmann, M., & Paulus, M. (2016). How the experience of time shapes decision-making. In M. Reuter & C. Montag (Eds.), Neuroeconomics. Studies in neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics series (pp. 133–144). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  62. Wittmann, M., & Paulus, M. P. (2008). Decision making, impulsivity, and time perception. Trends in Cognitive Science, 12, 7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wittmann, M., & Schmidt, S. (2014). Mindfulness meditation and the experience of time. In S. Schmidt & H. Walach (Eds.), Meditation–neuroscientific approaches and philosophical implications (pp. 199–209). Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wittmann, M., Simmons, A. N., Aron, J. L., & Paulus, M. P. (2010). Accumulation of neural activity in the posterior insula encodes the passage of time. Neuropsychologia, 48, 3110–3120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wittmann, M., Simmons, A. N., Flagan, T., Lane, S. D., Wackermann, J., & Paulus, M. P. (2011). Neural substrates of time perception and impulsivity. Brain Research, 1406, 43–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zakay, D. (2014). Psychological time as information: The case of boredom. Frontiers Psychology, 5, 917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zimbardo, P. G., & Boyd, J. N. (1999). Putting time in perspective: A valid, reliable individual-difference metric. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1271–1288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental HealthFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Catholic University of Applied Sciences FreiburgFreiburgGermany

Personalised recommendations