Emotion and Time Perception in Children and Adults: The Effect of Task Difficulty

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  • 1 Université Clermont Auvergne, France
  • 2 Université de Poitiers (CeRCA), France

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In the present study, adults and children aged five and eight years were given a temporal bisection task involving emotional stimuli (angry and neutral faces) and three levels of discrimination difficulty that differed as a function of the ratio used between the short and the long standard duration (very easy, easy, and difficult). In addition, their cognitive capacities in terms of working memory and attention inhibition were assessed by neuropsychological tests. In the very easy temporal task (ratio of 1:4), the results showed that the psychophysical functions were shifted toward the left in all participants for the angry faces compared to the neutral faces, with a significant lowering of the Bisection Point, suggesting that the stimulus duration was judged to last longer for the emotional stimuli. In addition, the results did not show any relationship between the magnitude of this lengthening effect and individual cognitive capacities as assessed by the neuropsychological tests. The individual differences in working memory capacities only explained differences in sensitivity to time. However, when the difficulty of the temporal task increased, the children’s performance decreased and it was no longer possible to test for the emotional effect. Unlike the children, the adults were still able to discriminate time in the emotional task. However, the emotional effect was no longer observed. In conclusion, our study on temporal task difficulty shows the influence of available cognitive resources on the emergence of an emotional effect on time perception.

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