[Paleopsych] Eureka: Scientists prove time flies when you're busy

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Sat Aug 7 15:39:20 UTC 2004

Scientists prove time flies when you're busy

    Contact: Ryan Smith
    [2]ryan.smith at ualberta.ca
    [3]University of Alberta

                  Scientists prove time flies when you're busy

    Every mom and dad can tell you that keeping children busy helps stave
    off cries of boredom--and now there is scientific backing to prove it.

    Dr. Anthony Chaston and his research colleague, Dr. Alan Kingstone,
    have proven, once and for all, that time really does fly when you're
    having fun. Or, at least, it flies when your attention is engaged.

    Working in the University of Alberta Department of Psychology, Chaston
    and Kingstone devised a test that required subjects to find specific
    items in various images--a sort of "Where's Waldo" activity. However,
    before the subjects started the test they were told that once they had
    completed it they would be asked to estimate how much time had passed
    during their test.

    There were seven levels of difficulty among the tests. In some cases,
    the items were easy to find because they were different colours from
    everything else, or the items were set among just one or two others.
    In the more difficult tests, the items were placed among many similar
    looking items, or they didn't even exist in the image, at all.

    "The harder and harder the search tasks were, the smaller and smaller
    the estimates became," said Chaston, whose study is published in the
    latest edition of Brain and Cognition. "The results were super
    clean--we have created a new and powerful paradigm to get at the link
    between time and attention."

    There are two kinds of time estimations, Chaston added. There's
    prospective time estimation, which means the estimator knows in
    advance that he or she will be asked to make an estimate after a task
    is completed, and then there's retrospective, which means someone has
    been asked to provide a time estimate after the task has been

    "There's generally a big difference between prospective and
    retrospective time estimations," Chaston said. "In our society, we're
    pretty good with prospective estimates. Most of us wear watches, and
    we're pretty good at keeping track of the time because we have to for
    most of our regular, daily lives."

    For this reason, Chaston is pleased that the results of his study
    demonstrated such a powerful effect of attention on prospective time

    "This really shows that even if you know in advance that you're going
    to have to estimate the time of a task, the more attention the task
    requires, the faster time flies."


    Dr. Anthony Chaston can be reached at 780-713-4118 or
    [4]achaston at shaw.ca.


    2. mailto:ryan.smith at ualberta.ca
    3. http://www.ualberta.ca/
    4. mailto:achaston at shaw.ca

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