Luke Mastin states that a temporal illusion is where our internal clock changes speed. This distorts or misconceives the time that occurs naturally in the world. 

A temporal illusion is a distortion in the perception of time that occurs for various reasons, such as due to different kinds of stress. In such cases, a person may momentarily perceive time as slowing down, stopping, speeding up, or even running backwards, as the timing and temporal order of events are misperceived. When we say that time slows down, what we actually mean is that our internal clock speeds up, which gives the impression that time in the rest of the world slows down…

The kappa effect is a form of temporal illusion which can be verified by experiment. It refers to occasions when the temporal duration between a sequence of consecutive stimuli is thought to be relatively longer or shorter than its actual elapsed time, as a result of the spatial separation between consecutive stimuli…

Chronostasis, also known as the stopped clock illusion, is where the first impression following the introduction of a new event or task demand to the brain appears to be extended in time. The most commonly encountered example is when the second hand of an analog clock appears to freeze in place for a short period of time after a person initially looks at it. A similar illusion can also be found within the auditory system…

The so-called “oddball effect” occurs when the brain experiences something unusual or out of the normal run of events. In this case, the brain pays special attention and spends more time processing the event, recording as much information as possible on the novel circumstances, which can lead to a feeling that time has slowed down (Mastin 2019).

Mastin, Luke. 2019. ‘Temporal illusions.’ Exactly what is…time?  http://www.exactlywhatistime.com/psychology-of-time/temporal-illusions/.


Mariska Pienaar portrays human time, in the constructed form of measurable units, as a conscious or unconscious representation of environmental time. Furthermore, human time, when described in terms of one’s life stages, is said to reflect the temporality of the Earth’s seasonal progressions.

The preceding sections of this article focused on how our natural environment, either consciously or unconsciously, evokes in us an awareness of time and death, and a consequent search for meaning in life, a search that often evokes existential and death anxiety. Following the ecopsychology principle of reciprocal influence (Roszak, 1992, 1998), this section of the discussion will focus on how our existential awareness and search for meaning leads to human constructions of time. It has been argued that an awareness of time and death causes the existential search for meaning. Although time is something perceived as existent within the human field of awareness, of course humans also need to construct time in a meaningful way.

Our contemplation of time in terms of meaningful units has caused it to become an essential factor in ascribing meaning and value to stages, conditions, and actions in life. Hereby, time has moved from being an external, environmental reality to becoming a human created framework for valuation processes.

The most fundamental way in which time has become a human construct is represented by the creation of the basic units of time. Although of course informed by the natural cycles of the Earth, human beings have constructed time into the basic units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc. These conceptual units of time have come to be time…

A second example of the way in which time has become a human construct is the division of a human life into ‘‘life stages.’’ These stages of course start at infancy and continue through childhood, young adulthood, mid-life, and old age. The construction of time into life stages has enabled us to conceptualize specific important stages and landmarks in the progression of a human life. The division of human life into stages closely, and most likely not at all coincidentally, resembles the Earth’s cyclical progression from one season to the next. As such, the Earth’s spring symbolizes infancy through adolescence, summer symbolizes young adulthood, autumn midlife, and winter may be said to symbolize old age (Pienaar 2011, 28).

Pienaar, Mariska. 2011. ‘An eco-existential understanding of time and psychological defenses: Threats to the environment and implications for psychotherapy.’ Ecopsychology 3(1): 25-29.


Kevin Birth argues that the human knowledge of time is not associated with celestial movements. Instead, the knowledge that humans have of time is embedded within culturally diversified objects and tools, which distantly represent celestial movements.

The study of objects of time is the study of cognition and culture, but not of the sort limited to the mind or to a simpleminded notion of cultural boundaries. For most clock users, the logics used to determine the time are outside of their knowledge but within the objects. These logics have an artifactual existence that mediates between consciousness and the world—part of what Cole describes as the “special characteristics of human mental life” as “the characteristics of an organism that can inhabit, transform, and recreate an artifact-mediated world” (1995, 32). When one wants to know what time it is, one does not calculate it, but simply refers to a clock or watch. When one wants to know the date, one consults a calendar rather than observes the Sun, Moon, and stars. This placement of temporal logics in artifacts clearly forms a feature of humans that is quite different from anything shared with any other animal—not only do humans make tools, and not only do humans have knowledge far beyond what animals exhibit, but humans place this knowledge in tools. The cultural diversity of concepts of time is closely related to the fusion of diverse ideas and artifacts used to think. Whereas my examples so far are the clock and the calendar, the use of objects to mediate time is not new. Objects related to time are among some of the most famous in the archaeological record, for example, Stonehenge, the Aztec calendar, and the Antikythera Mechanism (Birth 2012, 9).

Birth, Kevin. 2012. Objects of time: How things shape temporality. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.


Michael Flaherty explores the difference between the subjective impression of time’s passage, versus how much of that time has actually passed. The distinction is established between a reality of time, and contingent impressions of time.

Time flies. For centuries, this has been one of the stock phrases in Western civilization. But, on occasion, we are struck by the sense that time has passed even more quickly than is usually the case. This is to say that, in particular circumstances, it feels like much less time has elapsed than has actually been measured by the clock or calendar. Regardless of whether the relevant interval is ten hours or ten months, it seems to those of us in such circumstances that a much shorter length of time has gone by. Therefore, we can refer to this sensation as “temporal compression” (Flaherty 1999, 104).

Flaherty, Michael. 1999. A watched pot: How we experience time. New York: New York University Press.


Robert Kastenbaum characterises statistical, behaviour analysis, as a form of psychology which neglects the phenomenological reality of natural time. Such methods, Kastenbaum asserts, construct the appearance of the time of an individual, and of a population, when actually the focus is on time-bereft, quantitative outcomes.

There is probably a connection between the psychologists’ perceived irrelevance of death and two other variables: (a) the psychologist’s separation from phenomenological and natural time; and (b) the preference for aggregated rather than individual (nomothetic) types of quantitative analysis. Experimental psychology is strong on establishing its own designer time frameworks-reinforcement schedules are one familiar example. Statistical psychology is strong on analyzing data on the basis of techniques and assumptions that have an underlying spatial or other atemporal foundation. This tendency expressed itself in the early days of statistical treatment of behavioral data when research designs were borrowed from agricultural experimentation. (The “hort” in cohort bears witness to its horticultural roots.) Investigators became adept at studying the effects of treatment A, treatment B, and control conditions on “crops” of rats or undergraduates who had been assigned to these various conditions, much like sweet peas to Mendellian garden patches. The results are analyzed by aggregated clumps (Group A, Group B, Group C). We are not really much interested in what happened to this particular sweet pea. Furthermore, natural time (in this case, the growing season) is replaced by quantitative outcome. True, there is the appearance that time has really been taken into consideration. But the statistical analysis merely compares two sets of numbers based upon aggregated performance. The growing season might have been a month or an hour. The process might have been linear or geometric, smooth or discontinuous. We’ll never know.

Natural time is seldom treated as natural time in psychological research. It is replaced by outcome measures that are indifferent to the actual temporal course. Similarly, the typical research program concentrates upon aggregated numbers. Individuals disappear as individuals almost as soon as they are fed into the computers. Combined, the tendency to dispose of both the individual and of natural time comprises a splendid way to make death appear irrelevant. Without individuals and the actual passage of time, how is this unpleasant topic to intrude itself? Furthermore, the already mentioned dislike of introspective studies has pretty much taken care of phenomenological time as well. Psychologists may not have any extraordinary ways to maintain social stability and continuity, but they can create little time and death-free worlds in their studies and theoretical models (Kastenbaum 2000, 15-16).

Kastenbaum, Robert. 2000. The psychology of death: Third edition. New York: Springer Publishing Company.