The Effects of Time Pressure on Temporal Overestimation Due to Threat
How does emotion change the way we perceive time? Studies have shown that we overestimate the duration of faces that express anger of fear — an effect that has been explained as due the speeding of a pacemaker that resides within an internal clock. Here, we test the idea that attending longer to facial threat leads to an overestimation of time. Seventy participants (16 male) estimated the duration of angry, fearful and neutral expressions under conditions designed to either reduce attention to time (by emphasising speedy responses) or lengthen attention to time (by emphasising accuracy). Results were modelled using Bayesian Multilevel Logistic Regression. The results replicate previous findings: speed emphasis reduced temporal sensitivity and led to both a higher overall proportion of long responses and faster reaction times. Facial threat attenuated the drop in temporal sensitivity due to speed instructions supporting the idea that people prolong attention to threat (even when they are not directly instructed to do so). We relate the findings to research into attention bias to threat and more broadly to models of perceptual decision making.