Psychology Magazine

Positive Stimuli Blur Time.

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
From Roberts et al.:
Anecdotal reports that time “flies by” or “slows down” during emotional events are supported by evidence that the motivational relevance of stimuli influences subsequent duration judgments. Yet it is unknown whether the subjective quality of events as they unfold is altered by motivational relevance. In a novel paradigm, we measured the subjective experience of moment-to-moment visual perception. Participants judged the temporal smoothness of high-approach positive images (desserts), negative images (e.g., of bodily mutilation), and neutral images (commonplace scenes) as they faded to black. Results revealed approach-motivated blurring, such that positive stimuli were judged as smoother and negative stimuli as choppier relative to neutral stimuli. Participants’ ratings of approach motivation predicted perceived fade smoothness after we controlled for low-level stimulus features. Electrophysiological data indicated that approach-motivated blurring modulated relatively rapid perceptual activation. These results indicate that stimulus value influences subjective temporal perceptual acuity; approach-motivating stimuli elicit perception of a “blurred” frame rate characteristic of speeded motion.

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