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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 29;9(1):e86934. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086934. eCollection 2014.

Interoceptive focus shapes the experience of time.

Author information

Health Psychology, Institute of Psychology, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.
Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.
Department of Empirical and Analytical Psychophysics, Institute for Frontier Areas in Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany.


The perception of time is a fundamental part of human experience. Recent research suggests that the experience of time emerges from emotional and interoceptive (bodily) states as processed in the insular cortex. Whether there is an interaction between the conscious awareness of interoceptive states and time distortions induced by emotions has rarely been investigated so far. We aimed to address this question by the use of a retrospective time estimation task comparing two groups of participants. One group had a focus on interoceptive states and one had a focus on exteroceptive information while watching film clips depicting fear, amusement and neutral content. Main results were that attention to interoceptive processes significantly affected subjective time experience. Fear was accompanied with subjective time dilation that was more pronounced in the group with interoceptive focus, while amusement led to a quicker passage of time which was also increased by interoceptive focus. We conclude that retrospective temporal distortions are directly influenced by attention to bodily responses. These effects might crucially interact with arousal levels. Sympathetic nervous system activation affecting memory build-up might be the decisive factor influencing retrospective time judgments. Our data substantially extend former research findings underscoring the relevance of interoception for the effects of emotional states on subjective time experience.

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