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Self-regulation and the extended now: Controlling the self alters the subjective experience of time

By Kathleen D. Vohs and Brandon J. Schmeichel


These studies investigated self-regulation and subjective experience of time from the perspective of the regulatory resource model. Studies 1–2 showed that participants who were instructed to regulate their emotions while viewing a film clip perceived that the film lasted longer than participants who did not regulate their emotions. In Study 3, participants provided time estimates during a resource-depleting or nondepleting task. Subsequent task persistence was measured. Time perceptions mediated the effect of initial self-regulation on subsequent self-regulated performance. In Study 4, participants performed either a resource-depleting or a nondepleting thought-listing task and then performed a different regulatory task. Compared with nondepleted participants, depleted participants persisted less on the 2nd task but estimated that they had persisted longer. Subjective time estimates statistically accounted for reduced persistence after depletion. Together, results indicate people believe that self-regulatory endeavors last overly long, a belief that may result in abandonment of further self-control. Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity. —Albert Einstei

Year: 2003
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