Distortions in time perceptions during task switching

Shan Xu, Prabu David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Perceived time passage and time duration were examined in a between-subjects design with four conditions: watching a sitcom, reading a journal article, occasional switching between sitcom and article, frequent switching between sitcom and article. Consistent with our prediction, time “flew by” in the high-entertainment condition that involved watching a sitcom, whereas time “dragged on” in the low-entertainment condition that involved reading a journal article. Switching between the two led to quicker passage of time than the low-entertainment condition, but not the high-entertainment condition. A different pattern was evident for duration estimation, with no difference between the low- and high-entertainment conditions, but a longer estimation of duration in the switching condition. Further, frequency of switching between the sitcom and article did not make a difference. These findings suggest that switching between tasks leads to overestimations of time spent on media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-369
Number of pages8
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Entertainment
  • Media measure
  • Media multitasking
  • Task switching
  • Time duration
  • Time passage


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