Our memory of time is shortened when we believe products and events are related

Jan 19, 2010

When we believe two events are connected -- such as drinking caffeine and getting a burst of energy -- we tend to compress time, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"People sometimes feel the effect of product consumption almost instantaneously—within an unrealistically short time after consumption," writes author David Faro (London Business School). "Such placebo-like effects are typically attributed to conditioning, wishful thinking, or expectations about product efficacy. The present research shows such effects can also occur because, under some conditions, people are prone to underestimate the time-to-onset of products they have used in the past."

In one of the author's experiments, participants first listened to music and later took part in a task. Half of the participants were then told the music they had listened to earlier enhanced creativity; the rest were not given that information. "When asked to recollect the amount of time that elapsed between listening to music and the creativity task, the first group thought that the time was significantly shorter," Faro writes. "Hence, even though both groups had (on average) the same experience with the music and with the creativity task, believing that the two things were related made participants connect them more closely in time."

In a second experiment, participants first chewed a stick of gum and then took part in an attention-related task. Later in the study they were told that increases attention. In that case, participants who considered only the gum as a cause for increased attention gave shorter estimates of time-to-onset than other participants who also considered another contributing cause: practice with the task. On a later occasion, the participants said they experienced the gum's effect earlier and they were less interested in trying a competing product.

"These experiments show that our recollections of how long products took to have an effect on us when we have used them in the past are intertwined with our beliefs in their causal role," the author concludes.

Explore further: Why plants in the office make us more productive

More information: David Faro. "Changing the Future by Reshaping the Past: The Influence of Causal Beliefs on Estimates of Time-to-Onset." Journal of Consumer Research: August 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Do doodle: Research shows doodling can help memory recall

Feb 27, 2009

Doodling while listening can help with remembering details, rather than implying that the mind is wandering as is the common perception. According to a study published today in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, subjec ...

Study shows the upside of anger

Mar 26, 2008

Here’s a maxim from the “duh” department: People typically prefer to feel emotions that are pleasant, like excitement, and avoid those that are unpleasant, like anger.

The freedom of power

Dec 01, 2008

With the forthcoming inauguration this January, the nation will be closely watching to see how the President Elect will respond to the advice, influence, and criticism of his advisors, cabinet members, media, and other political ...

Time is what we make of it

Feb 10, 2009

Ask anyone working on a project, and the biggest complaint one hears is "There's not enough time." But instead of more time, maybe what they need is a change of perception.

Recommended for you

Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

Aug 29, 2014

One wish many workers may have this Labor Day is for more control and predictability of their work schedules. A new report finds that unpredictability is widespread in many workers' schedules—one reason ...

Girls got game

Aug 29, 2014

Debi Taylor has worked in everything from construction development to IT, and is well and truly socialised into male-dominated workplaces. So when she found herself the only female in her game development ...

Computer games give a boost to English

Aug 28, 2014

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

Aug 28, 2014

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

User comments : 0