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Physiol Behav. 2001 Mar;72(4):589-93.

Long-term time estimation is influenced by circadian phase.

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  • 1Laboratory of Human Chronobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, White Plains, NY 10605, USA.


The adaptive significance of a putative time sense in humans remains unclear as do the factors that underlie the capacity to gauge the passage of time. Here we show that the subjective assessment of relatively long durations varies systematically as a function of time of day. Specifically, the subjective clock ran relatively faster when the circadian oscillation of body temperature was on the rise and relatively slower on the declining portion of the temperature curve. The overall result was a rather labile clock that, on average, ran slow relative to physical time. The results provide a glimpse into an underexplored aspect of how humans use their endogenous clocks in the most fundamental way--to gauge the passage of time.

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