Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Virtual reality warps your sense of time

By Allison Arteaga Soergel
UC Santa Cruz

May 19, 2021 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Image above: Participants in the study played this maze game 
both in virtual reality and on conventional monitors. 
The superimposed yellow line, which was not shown 
to participants, illustrates the path to the goal. Source: UCSC)

Psychology research demonstrates unique ‘time compression’ effect of virtual reality

Grayson Mullen was playing a virtual reality game at a friend’s house when, suddenly, he noticed that something very strange was happening.  

“I stopped playing the game, and I realized that I had no idea how much time had passed,” he recalled. “I was supposed to be taking turns with other people, and I was worried that I had played for too long because I couldn’t even guess if it had been 10 minutes or 40 minutes.”

At the time, Mullen was a cognitive science undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, so naturally, this experience piqued his interest. He knew there was existing research showing that video games can cause players to lose track of time, but as a game enthusiast himself, he had never felt anything quite like this. So, with support from Psychology Professor Nicolas Davidenko, he designed an experiment to try to get to the bottom of it. The results are now published in the journal Timing & Time Perception.

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