Perceived control in the lab and in daily life impact emotion-induced temporal distortions

Simona Buetti, Fei Xue, Qiawen Liu, Juyoen Hur, Gavin Jun Peng Ng, Wendy Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research has shown that the arousal and valence dimensions of emotional images distort the perceived duration of those images. Further, these time distortions are eliminated when observers feel in control over the events in the experiment. The present study had two goals. The first goal was to replicate the effect of perceived control on time perception, using a design where perceived control was manipulated within subjects. The second goal was to evaluate whether the experimental manipulation of perceived control was related to feelings of control experienced in daily life, as assessed by the Desire for Control and Locus of Control scales. In all, 109 participants completed a time bisection task and evaluated the same emotional images under low and high levels of perceived control over the events. The results replicated the finding that the temporal distortions by emotional events observed under low perceived control were eliminated under high perceived control. Furthermore, individual differences regarding control in daily life modulated the effects of perceived control on time perception. Individuals with a high desire for control and a high degree of internality seemed to have an enhanced experience of positive events. These same individuals also benefited more from the experimental control manipulation, speeding the passage of time and perhaps making the task more enjoyable. The results are discussed in the context of current models of time perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-122
Number of pages35
JournalTiming and Time Perception
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Control in daily life
  • Emotional events
  • Individual differences
  • Perception of control
  • Time perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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