How long is a minute

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Date and Time: 
Thursday, November 12, 2015
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Isabelle Brocas
University of Southern California

Psychophysics studies on time perception argue that the way we represent time intervals is not linear in true time intervals. Economics research on time discounting reveals that future rewards are valued less the longer the delay involved. Here we combine both strands and present experimental data in which subjects perform two tasks. First, they produce short intervals of time (seconds, minutes). Second, they choose between dierent rewards separated by long delays (weeks, months). We estimate the time perception functions and the time discounting functions at the individual level. We nd that subjects for whom one unit of time feels longer than true time discount the future at a higher rate than subjects for whom one unit of time feels shorter than true time. The result suggests that our capacity to delay consumption is related to our mental representation of time delays between now and the future. They also indicate the existence of an underlying internal clock that governs time representations irrespective of the unit of time.