Does A Pandemic Change Our Sense of Time? This Researcher Says Yes.

Philip Gable is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Delaware and he’s been studying about time and how people perceive it for the past 10 years. He has an interesting article out on LiveScience about the pandemic and its relationship to time.

So what is the connection between a disease and the fourth dimension?

The Relativity of Time (In Our Perception)

Although time may seem like an immovable thing, it turns out that our own emotions affect how we perceive time to be. For example, if we are in a positive mood, then time seems to be passing more quickly than when we are in a negative mood.

Gable begins in his article in LiveScience with this question:

Think back to life before stay-at-home orders. Does it feel like just yesterday? Or does it seem like ages ago — like some distant era?

Philip Gable

Gable and his team created a smartphone app to track how Americans feel, act, and perceive during this COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home period.

What did they find?

Some takeaways:

Motivation causes our sense of time to speed up, but avoidance motivation causes it to slow down. The more motivation we feel in either direction, the more pronounced the change in our perception of time.

Philip Gable

Meaning: if we’re motivated positively to do something, then our perception of time speeds up so that it’s easier for us to pursue this goal and do it for a long time.

When we don’t want to do something, then our perception of time slows down, so that we feel a sense of urgency to remove ourself from that situation. (Think about how much you don’t want to be in an unpleasant or awkward situation, and how relieved you are for any excuse to leave.)

Quarantine and Our Sense of Time

A global pandemic is an unhappy situation. We want to desperately get out of it.

That’s why when quarantine began, we felt like time was dragging on and on. No matter what you did, a lot of us felt restless and uneasy with all the time that it felt like we had lying in our hands. This heavy blanket of leftover time… For a society that screams for more free time, we suddenly found ourselves with too much of it.

If you’re still feeling this way, Gable suggests to engage yourself in activities that you enjoy doing. This will help you feel like time has sped up again, and you will find yourself at the end of the day wondering: where did the time go?

Read More about his findings at LiveScience : How the Pandemic Changed Our Perception of Time

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