“Time goes by so slowly,” The Righteous Brothers 1965 hit, “Unchained Melody,” laments. Lock downs and lack of human contact during the Covid-19 crisis is slowing down our perception of time, too.
The Pandemic has caused people to perceive time differently, according to new research published in Science Advances.
Time perception is a complex, dynamic process influenced by many factors. Unpredictable events such as stress and time pressure; the feeling that time is running out can affect how we perceive our days. The context in which it occurs is also a factor. Researchers in Brazil set out to discover how The Pandemic impacted Brazilian’s perception of time.
The study followed 3,855 volunteers who filled out questionnaires after the first 60 days of social distancing and every week thereafter for 15 weeks. Time appears to be expanding for some people, with 65% of participants feeling that the passage of time has become slower. Survey respondents were also more likely to report loneliness and a lack positive experiences.
On the flip side, participants who completed the survey also reported fewer concerns about meeting deadlines, the phoenominon known as “Time Pressure.”
“Together, our findings show how emotions are a crucial aspect of how time is felt,” co-author André Cravom wrote.
“When you remember what you did during a vacation, time seems to have lasted longer. On the contrary, when you’re standing in line, time goes all too slowly but when you recall the situation some time later, it feels as if it was over quickly,” he said.
The researchers found that age influenced results, with more younger people experiencing a slowing down of time in the beginning stages during COVID-19 pandemic.
Sylvie Droit-Volet, a professor in developmental and cognitive psychology at Université Clermont Auvergne, France, was among a group who published a 2011 study that connected fear to lengthening “stimulus durations.”
A 2012 study conducted at the University of Alabama found that, “‘approach motivation,’ the drive to achieve goals, positive experiences, or vital resources such as food and water,” influenced time perception. High approach motivation shortened time. Low approach motivation made time slow down.
Memory bias always plays a role in research and the small survey universe leaves the findings open to debate. But the results of the Brazillian study support a general consensus that the pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty, offering useful insights into how people are feeling during unprecedented event. For some, time may truly stand still.