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Distortions in the perception of time

Hiroshi Watanabe / Getty Images

Like a rubber band, time seemed to shrink and expand during the pandemic, reflecting the emotions of people isolating at home. “I often feel bored” or “I feel like time is running out” were some of the options available to the 3,855 participants of an online survey designed to measure how Brazilians perceived the passing of time over a 14-week period after two months of social distancing. Led by André Cravo, a psychologist and neuroscientist from the Federal University of ABC (UFABC), the study identified distortions in people’s perceptions of time. For many, time felt slower as a result of negative factors (loneliness, sadness, bad news). For others, it conversely seemed to pass faster due to positive factors (happiness, performing rewarding activities, the recovering health of family members, or having fun with other people). Younger participants were more likely to feel like time dilated than people aged over 40 (Science Advances, April 13).