Thursday, 22 August 2013

Depressed people have a more accurate perception of time

“Time seems to drag” is a phrase that people with depression often use to describe their experiences and their life.  Yet they have a surprising accuracy when it comes to estimating time intervals – more accurate than their happier peers – according to a new study just published By Professor Diana Kornbrot at the University of Hertfordshire’s Health & Human Sciences Research Institute (HHSRI).

People with mild depression underestimate their talents - often distorting the facts and viewing their lives more negatively than non-depressed people.  Their feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness and of being out of control are some of the main symptoms of depression – and for these people time seems to pass very slowly.  But they have a more accurate perception of reality than their happier friends and family who often look at life through rose-tinted glasses and hope for the best!

The study found that depressed people were accurate when estimating time whereas non-depressed peoples’ estimations were too high.    This may be because mildly-depressed people focus their attention on time and less on external influences, and therefore have clarity of thought – a phenomenon known as ‘depressive realism’.

This timing skill may be able to help in the treatment of people with depression as they are often encouraged to check themselves against reality.  It may also link to successful mindfulness-based treatments for depression which focus on encouraging present moment awareness.

The paper, “Time perception and depressive realism: Judgement type, psychophysical functions and bias”, is published in PLOS ONE.

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