1987 volume 16(1) pages 5 – 16

Cite as:
Mitchell C T, Davis R, 1987, "The perception of time in scale model environments" Perception 16(1) 5 – 16

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The perception of time in scale model environments

C Thomas Mitchell, Roy Davis

Received 15 November 1986, in revised form 15 March 1987

Abstract. It has been claimed that when subjects observe differently-scaled model environments their experience of temporal duration is compressed relative to standard clock time in the same proportion as the scale of the model being observed. A series of experiments is reported in which subjects made judgements of duration while observing model environments of different scale. In each experiment, two similar model environments of different scale were presented. Three different kinds of model were used: scale model railways, sitting-room models, and abstract nonrepresentional models. Despite considerable individual variability, significant effects were obtained. Smaller scale was, up to a point, related to a compression of subjective time relative to clock time, although the effect was nowhere near as great as that previously reported. Also, when scale was reduced beyond a certain point the effect on judgements of duration was eliminated, or even reversed. It is suggested that the effect of time compression is related to differences in the density of the information to be processed in environments of different scale, and that there may be an optimum value for information density related both to the scale and to the type of environment.

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