Emotional Modulation of Time Perception
Our perception of time is not veridical but rather is consistently modulating by changing dynamics in our environment. Anecdotal experiences suggest that emotions can be powerful modulators of time perception; nevertheless, the mechanisms underlying emotion-induced temporal distortions remain unclear. Widely accepted pacemaker-accumulator models of time perception suggest that changes in arousal and attention have unique influences on temporal judgments and contribute to emotional distortions of time perception. However, such models conflict with current views of arousal and attention and their interaction from the perspective of affective and cognitive science. The aim of this dissertation was to more clearly examine the role of arousal and attention in driving emotion-induced temporal distortions by explicitly manipulating and measuring these constructs using well-established timing procedures within the context of affective manipulations induced via classical conditioning and drug administration. Measures of physiological arousal and subjective measures of top-down attention to emotional stimuli were assessed both within and across subjects. The findings reported here suggest that current models of time perception do not adequately explain the variability in emotion-induced temporal distortions. Instead these findings provide support for a new theoretical model of emotion-induced temporal distortions proposed in the current manuscript that emphasizes both the unique and interactive influences of arousal and attention on time perception, dependent on temporal dynamics, event relationships, and individual differences. Collectively, these findings may point to plausible neurobiological mechanisms of emotion-induced temporal distortions and have important implications for our understanding of how emotions may modulate our perceptual experiences in service of adaptively responding to biologically relevant stimuli.
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