80% say their perception of time ‘is distorted’ under COVID-19 lockdown

July 13, 2020

A survey conducted by a psychologist at Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom has found that social and physical distancing measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted people’s perceptions of how quickly time passed, compared to their pre-lockdown impressions, Science Daily reports.

Previous research had suggested that our perception of how quickly time passes can vary according to the emotions we are experiencing, the number of daily tasks we must perform, and other factors. However, most of that research has been limited to normal day-to-day life.

Author Ruth Ogden—a senior lecturer in Psychology at the university— prepared an online questionnaire, asking the 604 U.K.-based respondents to rate on a sliding scale how quickly they felt time was passing compared to pre-lockdown, both over the course of a single day and over a full week. The questionnaire also evaluated people’s emotional state, task load, and satisfaction with levels of social interaction..

Ogden found that more than 80% of participants experienced changes to how quickly they perceived time passing during lockdown compared to pre-lockdown. Those who were older or less satisfied with their current levels of social interaction were more likely to experience slower passage of time over the course of a day or week. Slower passage of time over the course of a day was also associated with higher stress and a lower task load.

These findings suggest that significant changes to life’s daily routine distort perception of time. Future research could explore the effects of specific factors, such as whether social satisfaction influences perception of time during normal daily life, or if its significance in this study is due to the unique social impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The survey was conducted between April 7 and April 30. The findings have been posted in the July 6 edition of the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Research contact: @Science Daily 

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