Journal Article The return trip is felt shorter only postdictively: A psychophysiological study of the return trip effect

Ozawa, Ryosuke  ,  Fujii, Keisuke  ,  Kouzaki, Motoki

10 ( 6 ) 2015-06-10 , Public Library of Science
The return trip often seems shorter than the outward trip even when the distance and actual time are identical. To date, studies on the return trip effect have failed to confirm its existence in a situation that is ecologically valid in terms of environment and duration. In addition, physiological influences as part of fundamental timing mechanisms in daily activities have not been investigated in the time perception literature. The present study compared round-trip and non-round-trip conditions in an ecological situation. Time estimation in real time and postdictive estimation were used to clarify the situations where the return trip effect occurs. Autonomic nervous system activity was evaluated from the electrocardiogram using the Lorenz plot to demonstrate the relationship between time perception and physiological indices. The results suggest that the return trip effect is caused only postdictively. Electrocardiographic analysis revealed that the two experimental conditions induced different responses in the autonomic nervous system, particularly in sympathetic nervous function, and that parasympathetic function correlated with postdictive timing. To account for the main findings, the discrepancy between the two time estimates is discussed in the light of timing strategies, i.e., prospective and retrospective timing, which reflect different emphasis on attention and memory processes. Also each timing method, i.e., the verbal estimation, production or comparative judgment, has different characteristics such as the quantification of duration in time units or knowledge of the target duration, which may be responsible for the discrepancy. The relationship between postdictive time estimation and the parasympathetic nervous system is also discussed.

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