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Does Time Really Slow Down during a Frightening Event?

Stetson, Chess and Fiesta, Matthew P. and Eagleman, David M. (2007) Does Time Really Slow Down during a Frightening Event? PLoS ONE, 2 (12). e1295. ISSN 1932-6203. PMCID PMC2110887. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001295.

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Observers commonly report that time seems to have moved in slow motion during a life-threatening event. It is unknown whether this is a function of increased time resolution during the event, or instead an illusion of remembering an emotionally salient event. Using a hand-held device to measure speed of visual perception, participants experienced free fall for 31 m before landing safely in a net. We found no evidence of increased temporal resolution, in apparent conflict with the fact that participants retrospectively estimated their own fall to last 36% longer than others' falls. The duration dilation during a frightening event, and the lack of concomitant increase in temporal resolution, indicate that subjective time is not a single entity that speeds or slows, but instead is composed of separable subcomponents. Our findings suggest that time-slowing is a function of recollection, not perception: 1a richer encoding of memory may cause a salient event to appear, retrospectively, as though it lasted longer.

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Stetson, Chess0000-0003-0549-8197
Additional Information:© 2007 Stetson et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Received: October 26, 2007; Accepted: November 6, 2007; Published: December 12, 2007. Academic Editor: David Burr, Istituto di Neurofisiologia, Italy. We thank Donald Vaughn, Jesse Callus, and the staff at Zero Gravity in Dallas for help with running the experiment. Author Contributions: Conceived and designed the experiments: DE CS. Performed the experiments: DE CS. Analyzed the data: DE CS. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: CS MF. Wrote the paper: DE CS. Funding: NIH RO1 NS053960 and Army Research Laboratory Cooperative Agreement Number W911NF-07-2-0023. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Issue or Number:12
PubMed Central ID:PMC2110887
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:STEplosone07
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Official Citation:Stetson C, Fiesta MP, Eagleman DM (2007) Does Time Really Slow Down during a Frightening Event? PLoS ONE 2(12): e1295. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001295
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9949
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:28 Mar 2008
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 21:03

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