How Time Perception Influences Behavior

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How Time Perception Influences Behavior

Depending on how someone feels about an experience, it can either feel like time is prolonged or that time has passed by so fast / Photo by rawpixel via 123RF


Everyone has a different way of viewing time. The way a person perceives time also affects their behavior. Depending on how someone feels about an experience, it can either feel like time is prolonged or that time has passed by so fast. In celebrating holidays, an individual may feel both.

What Is Time Perception? defines time perception as, “... The subjective experience of the passage of time or the perceived duration of events, which can differ significantly between different individuals and/or different circumstances.”

Ways of Estimating Time Duration

According to, these are the two ways people judge the length of time:

1. Prospective time estimation

This is estimating time during the experience.

2. Retrospective time estimation

This is estimating the duration after the event has happened.

Holiday Paradox

Claudia Hammond claims that people may experience the duration of a holiday as short and long at the same time. She explains that memory has a vital role in retrospective time estimation. When a person is celebrating the holiday, they are engaged in several interesting and fun activities which keeps them from being aware of how much time has passed.

These new activities they have been part of tend to create more memories for the person than their typical work or school routines. Since more memories have been formed, it makes it feel like more time has lapsed. As a result, the person feels that the holiday was long.


People may experience the duration of a holiday as short and long at the same time / Photo by goodluz via 123RF


The same phenomenon occurs when someone falls ill. When someone gets sick, they spend most of their time lying on their bed and not doing other things. This makes them feel that time is dragging on too slowly.

After they recover from their sickness, they may feel that the duration of their sickness was short. Since doing nothing on bed created fewer memories for them than their usual routine, they may feel that the duration of being sick passed more quickly.

Kinds of Time Perceptions

Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd, researchers of the psychology of time, proposed that humans have six different perspectives of time. These perspectives are:

Positive past

Individuals who have experienced a positive past may recall their past happily. They will constantly try to remember their past by replaying their memories repeatedly.

These people are often friendly, sentimental, warm and confident. They are rarely depressed or anxious. They are also do not act aggressively. They have an affinity for family gatherings, meetings, group celebrations, music and old movies. They also often keep things that have sentimental value.  

Negative past

Those who are more inclined to this view feel as if their past was pointless. They will attempt to remove bad past experiences which they tell people to avoid. They tend to have a limited number of friends who may describe them as sad, depressed, anxious and shy.

When they get too frustrated, they become unable to control themselves. As a result, this leads them to often destroying their things. Usually, they do not get involved in fun activities or exercise. They also struggle with controlling their impulses. This is why people who have this perspective also tend to bet more.


Hedonistic present

People with this perspective are often creative and have a wide circle of friends. Usually, they are energetic and adventurous. They are often the life of the party and have the ability to make others laugh. Due to their extreme impulsiveness, they may find it hard to stay in a job for extended periods of time. They also enjoy being part of hazardous sports.

Fatalistic present

People who have this view of time tend to not have confidence in themselves. They are also usually depressed and anxious. They have the tendency to keep looking down and are not so energetic. They may also be prone to doing dangerous practices such as getting addicted to drugs. They feel like they have no control over their fate because they think their destiny has already been established. They have the feeling that no matter what they do, their fate cannot be changed.


People who have a future-oriented perception of time tend to be realists. They often consider the instant benefits and the future outcomes. They have the ability to refuse instant gratification in order to have better results in their future.

They often have several acquaintances but have few friends. They often dwell on the consequences. Due to this, they may dislike change, excitement or surprises. They tend to have things planned out and make many lists. They always wear watches and are very dependent on them. They are often described as prudent and the kind of individuals who are not reckless.

Distant Future

People who have this kind of time perception tend to be religious. They may believe in the afterlife, attend services often and practice their religious rituals. They are disciplined when it comes to dealing with their impulses. They are also not aggressive and tend to think about the effects of their actions.

Spend Time Wisely

Time perceptions may eventually shift as a result of many different factors in a person’s life. Marc Wittman, a German psychologist says that time that is full of positive experiences consists of moments of fulfillment. This time is usually spent with important people in their lives such as their good friends or their lover.

Wittman says, “... Whether one lives out in the moment or pursues gain over the long term is a matter of emotionally intelligent conduct and weighing decisions.”



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