Time Perception Gets Out of Whack When Playing VR Games

The way we perceive time is a subjective matter, as it always seems to stand still when you’re doing something you hate and fly when you’re having fun. This is why it’s kind of puzzling to find out how virtual reality (VR) devices mess with our brain.
Porsche Holoride VR System 1 photo
Photo: Porsche
A team of researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz ran an experiment involving time perception when using virtual reality devices. According to their results, they concluded that VR creates a time compression effect. In other words, when we are caught in our virtual realities, we tend to think that time passes more slowly than in reality.

Researchers created an experiment in which several participants were asked to play a maze game they created. All participants had to randomly play the game both in the conventional format as well as in VR, with both versions of the game being the same.

All of them were asked to estimate when five minutes had passed and then to stop playing the game. No clocks of any kind were available to them.

The results revealed that the VR players of the game played for more than a minute longer (an average of 72.6 seconds) than participants who played the conventional version of the game.

One explanation for why this happens could be the fact that in VR, people have less body awareness. According to some scientific theories, our brain is helped in keeping track of time by some bodily rhythms such our heartbeat. But when in VR, you don’t really have a vivid sense of your body and you might miss the pulses of the timekeeping mechanism, explains psychology professor Nicolas Davidenko, coauthor of the study.

The next job of scientists is to figure out how to make the best of the time compression effect, to minimize its potential harm but harvest its benefits
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About the author: Cristina Mircea
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Cristina’s always found writing more comfortable to do than speaking, which is why she chose print over broadcast media in college. When she’s not typing, she also loves riding non-motorized two-wheelers, going on hikes with her dog, and rocking her electric guitars.
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