Re: Time Perception

James Rogers (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 13:39:48 -0800

At 04:00 AM 12/18/96 -0500, you wrote:
>Chris Hind writes,
>> I remember when I first played that video game it was
>> faster than any predecessor and at first I had a difficult time
>> following the action onscreen but I eventually 'grew' to the point
>> where it began to appear running more slowly.
>This happens with many such games, but it's a side effect.
>The games are designed to be entertaining; if your perception of time
>changes, that's fine, but that wasn't the intention of the programmer.
>But what if it were the intention of the programmer?
>Suppose you had a game which was *designed* to change
>the player's perception of time. Or space. Or...
Hmmm... Has there been many studies on psycho-temporal perceptions and
phenomena? Our perceptions are pretty easily twisted and modified once one
understands the underlying mechanisms of our perceptions.

Its been done for a long time with other perceptive mechanisms. Think of
graphic arts. It took many years before human artists learned how to add
spatial perception cues to their paintings. If you look out really old
paintings ( <1000A.D. ), there is almost no spatial perspective. Everything
is very 2D. The materials that people use to paint have not changed. We
still apply paint to 2D surfaces, but now we can add the perception of space
to a painting via many mechanisms for triggering spatial perception cues.

Much more recently in history, the study of psycho-acoustics has allowed us
to generate acoustic cues that can modify the way we hear sound. All the
"3D" sound algorithms currently found in computer soundcards take advantage
of some of the basic audio cues to fool you into thinking that you are
hearing a sound from a source other than the originator. Really good
psycho-acoustic hardware can make you think you are hearing sounds anywhere
in 3D space, all generated from 2 speakers using a complex barrage of clever
perception cues.

As for VR, experiments indicate that your body can fool itself into
perceiving non-existant tactile and motion cues as well. There have been
many recorded instances of people "feeling" the impact of a moving object in
an immersive VR environment. The environment cues them to feel the object
even though the object has no physical component.

As for temporal perceptions, I don't think we know enough yet about temporal
perceptions to develop environments that can significantly modify the
temporal perceptions of a person intentionally. However, the fact that
certain conditions do appear to speed up or slow down actual time seems to
indicate that such cues exist.

An interesting question: If there is a change in the _apparent_ flow of
time, do our thought processes actually speed up or slow down? When time is
moving fast, do we actually think less? I notice that time moves faster
when we are significantly occupied mentally. Is our temporal perception
based on our level of CPU (brain) usage? I imagine video games, which tend
to accelerate time, are very intensive computationally for several parts of
the brain, as well as requiring coordinated, parallel, real-time processing.
It might be possible to speed up temporal perceptions by somehow inducing
the subconscious to engage in a thought heavy activity.

-James Rogers