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Behav Processes. 2009 Feb;80(2):169-76. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2008.11.012. Epub 2008 Nov 25.

Time perception, depression and sadness.

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Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale et Cognitive, CNRS, UMR 6024, Université Blaise Pascal, 34 avenue Carnot, Clermont-Ferrand Cedex, France.


This study examined changes in time perception as a function of depressive symptoms, assessed for each participant with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The participants performed a temporal bisection task in which they had to categorize a signal duration of between 400 and 1600 ms as either as short or long. The data showed that the bisection function was shifted toward the right, and that the point of subjective equality was higher in the depressive than in the non-depressive participants. Furthermore, the higher the depression score was, the shorter the signal duration was judged to be. In contrast, the sensitivity to time was similar in these two groups of participants. These results thus indicate that the probe durations were underestimated by the depressive participants. The sadness scores assessed by the Brief Mood Inventory Scale (BMIS) also suggest that the emotional state of sadness in the depressive participants goes some way to explaining their temporal performance. Statistical analyses and modeling of data support the idea according to which these results may be explained by a slowing down of the internal clock in the depressive participants.

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