Feelings of control restore distorted time perception of emotionally charged events
Humans perceive time with millisecond precision. However, when experiencing negative or fearful events, time appears to slow down and aversive events are judged to last longer than neutral or positive events of equal duration. Feelings of control have been shown to attenuate increases in arousal triggered by anxiety-provoking events. Here, we tested whether feelings of control can go as far as influencing people’s perception of the world, by modulating the perceived duration of aversive events. Observers judged the duration of images depicting positive or negative content, and we manipulated the amount of control experienced by participants. Crucially, participants never had any real control over events. All control was illusory. Results showed that when participants experienced low levels of control, negative images were judged as lasting longer than positive images. However, when participants illusorily experienced high levels of control, they no longer experienced aversive negative images as lasting longer than positive images. âº Frightening, negative experiences induce subjective expansion of time. âº We manipulate feelings of control in observers exposed to arousing, negative images. âº Increased illusory control eliminates the usual time expansion associated with negative events.