Time Perception during Retrospective and Prospective Paradigms with a Distraction

Date of Award

Summer 2013

Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems


Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Shawn Doherty, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Dahai Liu, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Ashley Lear, Ph.D.


Time duration estimates can play an intricate part of one's daily life. This study examined the time duration judgments in two paradigms, when participants were aware they were being timed (prospective) and when they were unaware they were being timed (retrospective). Furthermore, this study investigated the effect of an external stimulus, when an auditory stimulus was used, to determine the effect, if any, between both of these paradigms. To ensure the participants were engaged in a task, a simulation was used that required several tasks to be completed. To ensure the participants were engaged in the simulation, the performance of the primary was measured.

For this between-subject, fully factorial experiment, 60 participants were engaged in a simulation and placed in one of the four conditions: retrospective paradigm without a distraction, retrospective paradigm with an auditory distraction, prospective paradigm without a distraction, and prospective paradigm with the same auditory distraction. During the experiment, participants were required to perform one primary and three secondary tasks and at the end of the simulation produced a time duration judgment of the length of the experiment.

This study examined both the accuracy of the time duration judgment and the performance of the primary task. The only significant finding for this study showed the importance of how a simple auditory distraction has the ability to distort the time perceived. Data indicated that auditory distraction increases the time duration judgments recalled after performing a task.

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