Time perception

How do we perceive time? Time perception has been examined in a number of different manifestations: the temporally extended self, temporal distance to events and points in time, perception of event, or task duration.


What are the many diverse effects that time perception has on how we see ourselves, our motivation, and our behavior? Much as physical landmarks help structure our representation of space, temporal landmarks such as birthdays and significant calendar dates structure our perception of time, such that people may organize or categorize their lives into “chunks” separated by these markers. Temporal landmarks are used spontaneously to induce psychological separation from undesirable temporal selves. Landmarks between current health and hoped-for future healthy selves can increased motivation to exercise.




Identity through time












How does time matter for our representation of ourselves across time? When we think about who we are, we not only think about how we are right this moment, but also how we have been in the past and how we might be in the future. Thinking of favorable future selves might motivate people to self-improve. For example, feeling subjectively very close to one’s graduation can motivate students to work harder towards making it a successful graduation, than if the same point in time feels distant.

Time also matters for our appraisal of anticipated behavior. Considering a temporally close or a temporally distant project can affect how this project is represented and can change the accuracy of people’s predictions about how soon this project will be finished. Thinking of an exercise in terms of minimal daily investments of time or larger monthly time investments can change people’s willingness to exercise.




Money and Budgeting

















People often attempt to estimate future expenses when faced with everyday choices (e.g., where to buy lunch, how to spend the weekend) as well as major life decisions (e.g., whether to have a child, when to retire). Errors in such prediction can be costly, resulting in unwise financial decisions, and ultimately could contribute to stress and reduced well being.

In my research on financial predictions I aim to identify factors that improve the accuracy of spending predictions, and to understand the relation between people’s spending predictions and their actual spending. Our studies have revealed a systematic bias in predictions: People tend to predict spending substantially less money in a future time period than they actually end up spending, even when reminded of their previous (identical) spending patterns. We have identified several processes that underlie this underestimation bias, both motivational and cognitive. For example, cognitive interventions such as unpacking future expenses into individual spending events eliminate the underestimation bias.




Expectations in Relationships








How do people predict what they will do for a partner? And how do they arrive at expectations about what their partner should do for them in turn?


People tend to make overly enthusiastic promises because they love their partner, yet they fall short of the promised behaviors not because of a lack of love but because of insufficient self-control strength. We identified situational factors that determine when the effect of love on prorelational behavior might be relatively stronger or weaker. For example, when a prorelational behavior can be done immediately, feelings for the partner are more important than levels of self-control – but the reverse is true if the prorelational behavior is delayed or has to be sustained over a longer period of time.