Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Time and Numbers Mix Together in the Brain

20.07.2011
Clocks tell time in numbers—and so do our minds, according to a new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. In two experiments, scientists found that people associate small numbers with short time intervals and large numbers with longer intervals—suggesting that these two systems are linked in the brain.

It’s clear that time and numbers are related in daily life, says Denise Wu of National Central University of Taiwan, who cowrote the new study with Acer Chang, Ovid Tzeng, and Daisy Hung. Numbers are used to represent distance and size, and to go to a farther place usually takes a longer time, for example.

But, she says, “Because the tradition of psychology is to manipulate one key variable of interest while controlling other confounding variables as much as possible, these domains were treated independently.” Recently, more researchers have started looking at how time and numbers are associated. Wu and her coauthors wanted to look more closely at this relationship, so they came up with a way to look at how numbers interfere with people’s perception of time.

In one experiment, each participant sat in front of a computer screen while a single-digit number appeared on the screen for a short time less than a second. After the number disappeared, the word “NOW” appeared on the screen, and the participant was supposed to hold down a key on the keyboard for as long as they thought the number had been displayed. The interaction between time and number was clear: after seeing a large number, like 9, people held the key down for longer than they did for a smaller number, like 2.

In another experiment, people saw a green dot for a short time. When they were asked to press the key, their key-press responses were accompanied by a number on the screen. In that case, they held down the key longer if they saw a small number and for a shorter time if they saw a large number. Wu thinks that happens because the small number makes people think they haven’t held down the key for long enough yet.

“We are really excited about this because this means the influence of the digit is so automatic and so immediate,” she says. The results suggest that the brain somehow processes time and the size of numbers together—possibly even with the same neurons. So, maybe instead of having different parts of the brain devoted to different kinds of measurement, there’s some part of the brain that is generally responsible for thinking about magnitude.

“It shows that it’s not like, mentally, we have a clock and it is immune to all the other information,” Wu says. Instead, your concept of time is responding to other things going on in the brain. In this case, it’s numbers, but it might also be influenced by emotion. For example, we all know that time passes more slowly in a boring meeting than when you’re chatting with a friend; maybe this is related to the ways that timekeeping links to other functions in the brain.

For more information about this study, please contact: Denise Wu at wuhsien@gmail.com.

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Big time is not always long: Numerical magnitude automatically affects time reproduction" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or dmenon@psychologicalscience.org.

Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

Large-scale battery storage system in field trial

11.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>