Perceived Time Vs. Real Time

How we see it determines how it 'behaves'

The catch-phrase “there's not enough time” is probably very familiar to people working on various projects, as part of a team. The specter of the passing hours always looms over their heads, even if, in reality, they have more than sufficient time to complete their task. And this is where a new scientific study comes in. Experts say that the perception people get of time is paramount in determining the quality of their work. In other words, if individuals feel like they have enough time – even though they don't – they are more likely to perform better under stress.

“Research has shown that it's not necessarily the time pressure, but it's the perception of that time pressure that affects you. If you feel you don't have enough time to do something, it's going to affect you,” Case Western Reserve University psychology doctoral student Michael DeDonno explains. He has been the leader of the current study, published in the December issue of the journal Judgment and Decision Making, which has examined the cases of 163 test subjects who have taken part in a game called the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), popular among psychologists.

In this game, participants are told they have to fulfill a task, and are then separated into two groups. One group is informed that it has very little time to complete the assignment, while the other is communicated that it has sufficient time to execute all the demands of the exercise. In reality, both groups are given the same time-frame to accomplish their objectives. The researchers have noted that the people in the group that was told it had not much time were far more likely to make mistakes and work in a sloppier manner than those in the control group.

“If I told you that you didn't have enough time, your performance was low regardless if you had ample time or not. If you were told you had enough time, in both scenarios, they out performed those who were told they didn't,” DeDonno adds. “Decision-making can be emotion-based, keep your emotions in check. Have confidence in the amount of time you do have to do things. Try to focus on the task and not the time. We don't control time, but we can control our perception. It's amazing what you can do with a limited amount of time. Time is relevant. Just have the confidence with the time you're given. I tell my students 'Do the best you can in the time allotted. When it ends, it ends.'”

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