On the Experience of Time While in Movement: An Intra-Subjective n=1 Study
29th Sep 2011Posted in: Blog 0
On the Experience of Time While in Movement: An Intra-Subjective n=1 Study
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This post summarizes my personal experience of the passing of time while jogging,  roller-blading or bicycling and listening to music of either fast or slow tempo. The idea for this post emerged because i began to notice that my experience of time passing varied consistently depending on whether i was jogging, rollerblading or bicycling and also varied according to the tempo of the music i was listening to. I have been jogging somewhat consistently over a few years on treadmills and on bike paths. Either way, i always listen to music through an iphone equipped with a gps device. My runs span 4.8 km to 5.2 km per run and the run time is between 24 and 28 minutes on the same path. My observations are the following:

1) Fast tempo music for which the beat is synchronized with the step of my run is more motivating and can increase the length of my run (Stamina).This type of music makes me determined and converges my focus on the task.

2) Slow tempo music which is more melody than rhythm can affect my mood positively and decrease my attention to time passing by drawing my attention to beauty of the sound and enhancing my visual perception. This type of music makes my focus divergent.

3) My velocity changes depending on whether i am running, rollerblading or biking such that my speed and distance increase in proportion to the method of transport used.

4) The faster i move, the slower time feels to be moving forward such that i cover the same distance in less time. Ie. The 5 km jog takes more time than the 5 km bike ride, thus time feels as though it were moving slower.

5) The slower i move, the faster time seems to be felt. Jogging at a slow pace means covering  less distance over the 24-28 minute exercise. Thus at the end there is the impression that time has moved quickly, ahead of my body's movement in space.



The dependent variable in this study were my personal experience of time. The independent variables were type of music being played (Fast or Slow) and means of transport (slow: running, medium: rollerblading and fast: Biking). The findings indicate that both music tempo and speed of transportation affect the experience of time passing during physical exercise.


This experiment was replicated roughly 20 times with consistent results. It is therefore the present working hypothesis that speed of music and speed of movement affect the perception of time passing to such an extent that the faster the music and movement, the slower the perception of time.


This experiment was highly subjective. In fact, it could be argued there is little objectivity to it at all since the subject of study is the experimenter himself. The lack of empirical methods in this study should not serve to discount its value. Rather, it is argued that the most adequate means of assessing and understanding subjective experience is through subjective means. While many tests have been devised to assess the quantity of human experience through likert scales and score evalutations, few tests have ever approached an understanding of the quality of human experience. I argue here that art does this better than science does and that when it comes to experience, an understanding of it's quality is far more valuable to human knowledge than any quantitative assessment could grasp.

It must be said that other factors such as fatigue, mood, level of hydration, climate, time of day all affect motivation and therefore the experience of time passing. Some days, i was tired before my run and the exercise seemed more painful which all contributed to a sense of time time and distance moving more slowly. This experience is what i call the quicksand experience. It is one in which the more one struggles to get out, the more one feels entrenched. Notwithstanding these confounding factors, over a period of 20 or so trials, it was definitely observed that music type and speed of travel affect sense of time passing. The implications of this for sport and motivational psychology would be that the correct music for an individual practicing a given exercise increases motivation and therefore endurance. The music factor could be combined with specific visual cues to give the illusion of greater speed and possibly increase performance by reducing the perception of time passing. This combination of visual cues and correct music could be useful in a fast moving hockey game and might actually slow players perception of time to such an extent that they gain greater control over the movement of the puck and greater endurance while also getting less tired.


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