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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2017 Nov;43(11):1925-1936. doi: 10.1037/xhp0000418. Epub 2017 Apr 13.

Caloric primary rewards systematically alter time perception.

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Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne.
Department of Finance, The University of Melbourne.


Human time perception can be influenced by contextual factors, such as the presence of reward. Yet, the exact nature of the relationship between time perception and reward has not been conclusively characterized. We implemented a novel experimental paradigm to measure estimations of time across a range of suprasecond intervals, during the anticipation and after the consumption of fruit juice, a physiologically relevant primary reward. We show that average time estimations were systematically affected by the consumption of reward, but not by the anticipation of reward. Compared with baseline estimations of time, reward consumption was associated with subsequent overproductions of time, and this effect increased for larger magnitudes of reward. Additional experiments demonstrated that the effect of consumption did not extend to a secondary reward (money), a tasteless, noncaloric primary reward (water), or a sweet, noncaloric reward (aspartame). However, a tasteless caloric reward (maltodexrin) did induce overproductions of time, although this effect did not scale with reward magnitude. These results suggest that the consumption of caloric primary rewards can alter time perception, which may be a psychophysiological mechanism by which organisms regulate homeostatic balance. (PsycINFO Database Record.

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