Reward Affects the Perception of Time

Abstract

Recent findings indicate that monetary rewards have a powerful effect on cognitive performance. In order to maximize overall gain, the prospect of earning reward biases visual attention to specific locations or stimulus features improving perceptual sensitivity and processing. The question we addressed in this study is whether the prospect of reward also affects the subjective perception of time. Here, participants performed a prospective timing task using temporal oddballs. The results show that temporal oddballs, displayed for varying durations, presented in a sequence of standard stimuli were perceived to last longer when they signaled a relatively high reward compared to when they signaled no or low reward. When instead of the oddball the standards signaled reward, the perception of the temporal oddball remained unaffected. We argue that by signaling reward, a stimulus becomes subjectively more salient thereby modulating its attentional deployment and distorting how it is perceived in time.

Publication
Cognition, 148, 19-26