Serena Castellotti, Ottavia D’Agostino, Alessandra Biondi, Luigi Pignatiello, Maria Michela Del Viva
Influence of Motor and Cognitive Tasks on Time Estimation
The passing of time can be precisely measured by using clocks, whereas humans’ estimation of temporal durations is influenced by many physical, cognitive and contextual factors, which distort our internal clock. Although it has been shown that temporal estimation accuracy is impaired by non-temporal tasks performed at the same time, no studies have investigated how concurrent cognitive and motor tasks interfere with time estimation. Moreover, most experiments only tested time intervals of a few seconds. In the present study, participants were asked to perform cognitive tasks of different difficulties (look, read, solve simple and hard mathematical operations) and estimate durations of up to two minutes, while walking or sitting. The results show that if observers pay attention only to time without performing any other mental task, they tend to overestimate the durations. Meanwhile, the more difficult the concurrent task, the more they tend to underestimate the time. These distortions are even more pronounced when observers are walking. Estimation biases and uncertainties change differently with durations depending on the task, consistent with a fixed relative uncertainty. Our findings show that cognitive and motor systems interact non-linearly and interfere with time perception processes, suggesting that they all compete for the same resources.