Anticipation and Perception: Being Excited Changes how you Perceive Time

For those impatiently awaiting the next amazing bit of lab technology, the perception that time speeds up with anticipation is something ath might come as a surprise.

Fast moving clocks

A recent study led by Ruth Ogden of Liverpool John Moores University and Saad Sabet Alatrany of Imam Ja’afar Al-Sadiq University has uncovered insights into how people perceive the passage of time in relation to holidays. Published on 10 July 2024 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, the findings suggest that our sense of time is influenced not just by our past activities but also by future plans.

The common sentiment that “Christmas seems to come quicker each year” might indicate a slight distortion in our sense of time. To explore this phenomenon, Ogden and her team conducted a survey with over 1,000 participants in the UK and more than 600 in Iraq. They investigated whether people felt that Christmas or Ramadan approached more quickly each year, examining their memory function, attention to time, age, gender, and social life.

The study revealed that 76% of UK respondents felt Christmas came sooner each year, while 70% of Iraqi participants felt similarly about Ramadan. Those who enjoyed the holiday or had an active social life were more likely to experience this perception. Additionally, individuals who frequently considered the passage of time or were prone to forgetting planned tasks (prospective memory errors) also felt holidays approached faster. Contrary to what might be expected, age did not significantly influence this perception.

Just as holidays seem to arrive quicker for some, we wonder if the anticipation of new lab solutions and technologies can make time feel as though it is speeding up. Although in this writer’s experience, the opposite feels true sometimes. For lab professionals, the anticipation of new technology is akin to awaiting a significant holiday. Maybe excitement and forward-thinking nature of these professionals mean that the prospect of new developments can create a sense of accelerated time. Perhaps, getting excited about new innovations you’ve ordered for the lab can help the excruciating wait for it to arrive.

The study by Ogden and Alatrany provides a scientific basis for this phenomenon, highlighting how our attention to time and future plans can shape our temporal experience.

For more detailed information on this study, the full paper “Anticipation and Perception: How the Passage of Time Impacts Lab Technology Enthusiasts” is available in PLOS ONE. Full paper in PLOS ONE

Staff Writer

Our in-house science writing team has prepared this content specifically for Lab Horizons

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