are we there yet? time slows down on crowded train
Virtual rides on a New York City subway seemed to take longer as crowding levels increased, Cornell researchers found. Credit: Cornell University

Testing time perception in an unusually lifelike setting—a virtual reality ride on a New York City subway train—an interdisciplinary Cornell research team found that crowding makes time seem to pass more slowly.

As a result, rush-hour commutes on public transit may feel significantly longer than other rides that objectively take the same amount of time.

The research adds to evidence that social context and subjective feelings distort our sense of the passage of time, and may have practical implications for people’s willingness to use public transit, particularly after the pandemic.

“It’s a new way of thinking about social crowding, showing that it changes how we perceive time,” said Saeedeh Sadeghi, a doctoral student in the field of psychology. “Crowding creates stressful feelings, and that makes a trip feel longer.”

Sadeghi is the lead author of “Affective Experience in a Virtual Crowd Regulates Perceived Travel Time,” published Nov. 3 in the journal Virtual Reality. Co-authors are Ricardo Daziano, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering; So-Yeon Yoon, associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design in the College of Human Ecology (CHE); and Adam K. Anderson, professor in the Department of Psychology and in CHE.

Prior research has identified subjective emotions, heart rate, and a situation’s complexity—including the number of items requiring attention—among factors that can influence one’s experience of time. Experiments typically have been conducted in lab settings using simple tasks and stimuli, such as shapes or images on a computer screen, for short durations.

Study participants took five virtual subway trips with crowds that ranged from 35 to 175 passengers. Crowded rides felt like they took 10% longer, on average.

In a novel application of VR, the Cornell team tested time perception in an immersive environment that was far more realistic, but that allowed crowding to be systematically controlled. More than 40 study participants took five simulated subway trips with a randomly assigned duration of 60, 70 or 80 seconds, each with varying crowding levels.

After donning heart-rate monitors and VR goggles to “board” the New York City subway scene developed by Yoon, participants heard an announcement to “stand clear of the closing doors, please,” followed by the ding-dong of a bell as doors closed and the sound of a subway accelerating. The trip ended with the train stopping and another bell sound.

Each crowding level added one person per square meter, resulting in crowds ranging from 35 to 175 passengers. Study participants could look around the train car at animated avatars of seated and standing passengers who changed positions, looked at phones or read books and magazines.

After each trip, study participants answered questions about how pleasant or unpleasant the experience was on a scale from 1 to 7, and were asked to do their best to accurately estimate how long the trip took.

The result: Crowded trips on average felt like they took about 10% longer than the least crowded rides. The distortion of time related to the degree of pleasure or displeasure experienced, with unpleasant trips feeling 20% longer than pleasant ones, which the authors attributed to the activation of emotional defense systems when people feel their personal space is violated.

“This study highlights how our everyday experience of people, and our subjective emotions about them, dramatically warps our sense of time,” Anderson said. “Time is more than what the clock says; it is how we feel or value it as a resource.”

Based on U.S. transit commutes averaging just over 60 minutes per day, the results imply that a year of crowded commuting would add more than 24 hours, or three full workdays, of “felt” time to reach destinations.

Crowding’s influence on perceived travel time likely will only grow stronger after coronavirus-related warnings to avoid crowds, according to the research. That could contribute to more people choosing alternatives to public transit, potentially increasing commuting’s carbon footprint.

In addition to their basic science finding about the nature of time perception, the scholars said their research could help transportation engineers improve ridership models—the focus of a related research paper published in Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board—and vehicle designs. Mitigating the unpleasant experience of crowding, they said, would make trips feel shorter. More information: Saeedeh Sadeghi et al, Affective experience in a virtual crowd regulates perceived travel time, Virtual Reality (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10055-022-00713-8 Saeedeh

Saeedeh Sadeghi et al, Crowding and Perceived Travel Time in Public Transit: Virtual Reality Compared With Stated Choice Surveys, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board (2022). DOI: 10.1177/03611981221130346


TikTok EU ban on the table if social network doesn’t comply with new laws

TikTok is one of the most popular social networks out there. But TikTok is also a cause of concern for western governments that worry about the company’s ties to the Chinese government. TikTok can’t run on most devices the US government issues, and there has been talk of a ...

View more: TikTok EU ban on the table if social network doesn’t comply with new laws

Don’t Buy a Foldable Until Samsung Brings This Prototype to Life

Samsung Display via The Verge The world of foldable phones is surprisingly stagnant. The Galaxy Z Fold gets a tiny little upgrade every year, and rival phone brands loosely copy Samsung’s homework. But a new Samsung Display prototype called the “Flex In & Out” could turn this narrative on ...

View more: Don’t Buy a Foldable Until Samsung Brings This Prototype to Life

Best free sports streaming apps in 2023

Cutting the cord on cable television is something tons of people have done over the past five years. But that hasn’t proven to be the smartest way to continue to watch sports. Whether it comes from premium sports website subscriptions to keep tabs on your favorite players, or even fantasy ...

View more: Best free sports streaming apps in 2023

Avengers 5 might have Ant-Man in it, Quantumania star teases

The first MCU Phase 5 movie will be Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the third installment in the Ant-Man franchise and a film with much higher stakes than the previous episodes. The sequel will deliver the MCU’s first Kang (Jonathan Majors) villain after we met a somewhat good He Who ...

View more: Avengers 5 might have Ant-Man in it, Quantumania star teases

Sharing a Netflix Account? Get Ready to Pay For It

DANIEL CONSTANTE/ Netflix is about to get serious in its efforts to eliminate freeloaders. If you share a Netflix account with family or friends outside your household, get ready to pay for it. A new “paid sharing” system could roll out starting next month, and you’ll have to pay a ...

View more: Sharing a Netflix Account? Get Ready to Pay For It

‘7 Wonders’ Board Game Gets a New ‘Edifice’ Expansion

Asmodee and Repos Production Board game lovers have a wonderful reason to celebrate today. Board game makers Asmodee and Repos Production announced their latest collaboration: 7 Wonders Edifice, an expansion to the popular board game 7 Wonders. The game launches on February 24th for $29.99. 7 Wonders: Edifice adds ...

View more: ‘7 Wonders’ Board Game Gets a New ‘Edifice’ Expansion

T-Mobile Kicks Off 2023 With Another Data Breach

r.classen / In a press release, T-Mobile confirms that it detected a data breach in its systems on January 5th. A “bad actor” managed to steal personal information (but not financial data) from around 37 million customers. This is the eighth T-Mobile data breach since 2018. The hacker ...

View more: T-Mobile Kicks Off 2023 With Another Data Breach

Apple appeals to UK competition watchdog investigation about mobile browser dominance

Apple has filed an appeal against the UK’s competition watchdog regarding its dominance of mobile browsers in the cloud gaming market, reports Reuters. The Competition and Markets Authority started investigating this dominance by the Cupertino firm and Google. Lawyers representing Apple believe the investigation should be reviewed as CMA ...

View more: Apple appeals to UK competition watchdog investigation about mobile browser dominance

Galaxy S23 Ultra release date and specs leak finally reveals everything about the new model

WhatsApp for iOS rolling out the ability to create a chat with yourself

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited changes streaming prices, now matches Apple Music

Deadpool 3 and Secret Wars to feature Fox’s X-Men, according to Marvel insider

Report: OLED iPad Pro still on track for 2024 release, 2026 for MacBook Pro

How to negotiate over practically anything

HomePod 2 praised in exclusive hands-on before launch

M2 Pro MacBook Pro Amazon preorder deal gives you $50 off

What “choice” means for millions of women post-Roe

Singapore FinTech firm Pilon secures $5.2M seed funding led by Wavemaker Partners

Capital Square Partners and Basil Technology team up for $700M tech fund in Asia

This feel-good movie about man’s best friend is dominating Netflix


Top Car News Car News