In This Article Time Perception

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Bibliographies
  • Time Perception Methods
  • Psychophysics of Time Perception
  • Past Time: Autobiographical Memory and Recency Judgments
  • Future Time: Prospective Memory
  • Developmental, Gender, Social, and Cross-Cultural Differences
  • Aging and Time Perception
  • Applied Psychology of Time Perception

Psychology Time Perception
Richard A. Block, Peter A. Hancock
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0123


The term time perception refers to a large subfield within the more general study of the psychology of time. It is an old and venerable topic in psychology. When psychology emerged from philosophy and medicine in the late 1800s, time perception became a major topic of interest. Researchers investigated many aspects of the psychology of time, especially the relationships between psychological and “real” (physical) time. Later, in about 1920, the tide turned: in the United States, behavioral psychologists asserted that psychologists should not investigate such topics. European psychologists did not agree, and they continued to investigate time perception, as they still do. Beginning in the 1960s, however, time psychologists started to be influential in the mainstream, even in the United States. They investigated how time perception involves many other processes. They began to integrate time perception along with attention, memory, and other cognitive psychological topics. After about the 1960s, and continuing to the present, time perception has seen a resurgence of interest. Now even an American time researcher can hold her or his head up and be proud to say, “I’m back.” This article focuses on the history and resurgence of time perception instead of the much more diverse topics of the psychology of time. Thus, we are excluding many references to clinical, pathology, personality, social, and other aspects of the psychology of time. This article includes only a few citations in those other subareas of psychology, mostly those that relate directly to time perception. The article presents a selective list of citations, undoubtedly omitting many important ones from hundreds of researchers, for anyone to get started on this fascinating topic. Given the selective nature of this article, there is only a limited number of publications can be included out of more than 13,000 of the journal articles, book chapters, and books published from the 1860s through the 2010s—more than 150 years of time perception research.

General Overviews

General overviews have been published in many edited books and chapters. Some of the more recent and influential are noted here. In chronological order: the edited volume Michon and Jackson 1985, from a conference in The Netherlands, is still of interest. McGrath 1986 is a mostly social psychological book. Block 1990 is a book on cognitive models, which is still relevant. Friedman 1990 revealed how time experience relies on different processes and that it is important to understand temporal experience as involving separate components. Macar, et al. 1992 contains edited chapters based on presentations at a conference in France, and these are still worth reading. Helfrich 2003 is an important book, along with an earlier one, from two conferences in Germany. Meck 2003 focused on scalar timing and neural mechanisms, and it is also important to time researchers. More recently, Grondin 2008 contains many important chapters. Contemporary researchers of time psychophysics, time perception, and time cognition will want to read most of the chapters in it.

  • Block, R. A., ed. 1990. Cognitive models of psychological time. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    E-mail Citation »

    Eleven diverse chapters relating to time perception from a cognitive perspective. Widely cited.

  • Friedman, W. J. 1990. About time: Inventing the fourth dimension. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    An interesting book by a leading researcher, who mainly (but not only) focused on developmental psychology and time.

  • Grondin, S., ed. 2008. Psychology of time. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

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    Intentionally titled after the famous French psychologist’s single-authored book (Fraisse 1963, cited under Origins of Modern Research on Time Perception, 1957–1964), this is an important edited volume with thirteen chapters to read.

  • Helfrich, H., ed. 2003. Time and mind II: Information processing perspectives. Papers presented at the International Symposium on Time and Mind II, University of Hildesheim, 2–4 September 2002. Göttingen, Germany: Hogrefe & Huber.

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    Chapters resulting from the second of two conferences in Germany. Arguably the better volume, containing articles on time perception and other related issues. For articles from the first conference, see H. Helfrich (ed.), Time and Mind (Seattle, WA: Hogrefe & Huber, 1996).

  • Macar, F., V. Pouthas, and W. J. Friedman, eds. 1992. Time, action and cognition: Towards bridging the gap. Papers presented at the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Time, Action and Cognition, Saint-Malo, France, 22–25 October 1991. NATO ASI series. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-3536-0E-mail Citation »

    Many articles inspired by a conference in Saint-Malo, France, which was organized in honor of Paul Fraisse, appeared in this important volume.

  • McGrath, J. E., ed. 1986. Research toward a psychology of time. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

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    Mostly social psychologically oriented.

  • Meck, W. H., ed. 2003. Functional and neural mechanisms of interval timing. Methods and New Frontiers in Neuroscience. Boca Raton, FL: CRC.

    DOI: 10.1201/9780203009574E-mail Citation »

    A very important edited collection of articles on neural processes and timing behavior. Many of the articles concern interval timing. Any researcher interested in the Scalar Expectancy Theory (SET)—and how brains time intervals—will want to read this book.

  • Michon, J. A., and J. L. Jackson, eds. 1985. Time, mind, and behavior. Papers presented at the International Workshop on Time, Mind, and Behavior, University of Groningen, September 1984. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-70491-8E-mail Citation »

    Chapters arising from an important early conference in Groningen, The Netherlands. Michon’s chapter provided a nice overview of temporal experience: “The Compleat Time Experiencer” (pp. 20–52).

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