How slow can you go? : the joint effects of action preparation and emotion on the perception of time

Lupton, Michael J.

February 2017

Thesis or dissertation

© 2017 Michael J Lupton. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

People are often found to temporally overestimate the duration of emotionally salient stimuli relative to neutral stimuli. To date there has been no
investigation into the behavioural consequences of such an effect or whether such an effect can be enhanced.

Experiments 1, 2 and 3 investigated whether a behavioural advantage to temporally overestimating the duration of emotive stimuli exists. Reaction time facilitation was found following the display of an emotive stimulus which was more frequently temporally overestimated than a neutral stimulus. This provides support for the notion that temporal overestimation due to threat prepares one to act. However, such effects were not found in Experiment 1. Experiments 4 and 5 used multiple experimental manipulations to induce an enhanced temporal overestimation effect. Neither experiment provided evidence that one’s perception of time can be distorted to a greater amount than has been previously demonstrated. This is explained by the operation of an internal clock, such as scalar expectancy theory (SET) (Gibbon, Church, & Meck, 1984), operating at some maximum level.

Finally Experiment 6 used electroencephalography to investigate the N1P2 complex in spider phobic and non-phobic individuals. The peak amplitude of the N1P2 complex was not modulated by the spider stimuli, however, the latency of the N1 component was found to be earlier when a spider stimulus was presented. It is suggested that the reaction time facilitation reported in Experiments 2 and 3 of this thesis may not be attributable to temporal overestimation per se, but instead is the result of a general cognitive speeding effect which also leads to temporal overestimation.

Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
George, David N.; Large, Mary-Ellen
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