Evidence for content-dependent timing of real-life events during COVID-19 crisis

Keren Taub*, Dekel Abeles, Shlomit Yuval-Greenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do people estimate the time of past events? A prominent hypothesis suggests that there are multiple timing systems which operate in parallel, depending on circumstances. However, quantitative evidence supporting this hypothesis focused solely on short time-scales (seconds to minutes) and lab-produced events. Furthermore, these studies typically examined the effect of the circumstance and the psychological state of the participant rather than the content of the timed events. Here, we provide, for the first time, support for multiple content-based timing systems when estimating the time of real-life events over long time-scales. The study was conducted during the COVID-19 crisis, which provided a rare opportunity to examine real-life time perception when many were exposed to similar meaningful events. Participants (N = 468) were asked to retrospectively estimate the time that has passed since prominent events, that were either related or unrelated to the pandemic. Results showed an overall time-inflation, which was decreased for events related to the pandemic. This indicates that long-term subjective timing of real-life events exists in multiple systems, which are affected not only by circumstances, but also by content.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9220
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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