The Effect of Motivation and Attention on Bias in Memory for Duration


In the present study, we investigated the effect of regulatory focus on bias in memory for task duration. Specifically, whether or not a person’s motivational outlook, seeking gains or avoiding losses, would cause them to over- or underestimate task duration. Eighty-four college students completed an origami task for which motivational focus (gains or losses), experience with the task and amount of attention directed to the task were manipulated. Participants with a focus on seeking gains tended to remember the task as taking less time when their attention was drawn towards the details of the task instead of away from the task than did participants in the other conditions. It seems that this effect occurred because participants with a focus for seeking gains did not sufficiently account for the fact that drawing attention toward the task caused them to take longer on the task than on previous trials.

Share and Cite:

Schwab, S. , Memmert, D. & Roy, M. (2013). The Effect of Motivation and Attention on Bias in Memory for Duration. Psychology, 4, 83-87. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.42011.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bartlett, F. (1932). Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[2] Beilock, S. L., Carr, T. H., MacMahon, C., & Starkes, J. L. (2002). When paying attention becomes counterproductive: Impact of divided versus skill-focused attention on novice and experienced performance of sensorimotor skills. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 8, 6-16. doi:10.1037/1076-898X.8.1.6
[3] Beilock, S. L., Bertenthal, B. I., McCoy, A. M., & Carr, T. H. (2004). Haste does not always make waste: Expertise, direction of attention, and speed versus accuracy in performing sensory motor skills. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 373-379. doi:10.3758/BF03196585
[4] Block, R. A., & Reed, M. A. (1978). Remernbered duration: Evidence for a contextual-change hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 4, 656-665. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.4.6.656
[5] Block, R. A., & Zakay, D. (1997). Prospective and retrospective durations judgments: A meta-analytic review. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 4, 184-197. doi:10.3758/BF03209393
[6] Boltz, M. G., Kuppermann, C., & Dunne, J. (1998). The role of learning in remembered duration. Memory & Cognition, 26, 903-921. doi:10.3758/BF03201172
[7] Burt, C. D. B. (1992). Reconstruction of the duration of autobiographical events. Memory and Cognition, 20, 124-132. doi:10.3758/BF03197160
[8] Conti, R. (2001). Time flies: Investigating the connection between intrinsic motivation and the experience of time. Journal of Personality, 69, 1-26. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.00134
[9] Crowe, E., & Higgins, E. T. (1997). Regulatory focus and strategic inclinations: Promotion and prevention in decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 69, 117-132. doi:10.1006/obhd.1996.2675
[10] Droit-Volet, S., & Gil, S. (2009). The time-emotion paradox. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364, 1943-1953. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0013
[11] F?rster, J., & Higgins, E. T. (2005). How global vs. local processing fits regulatory focus. Psychological Science, 16, 631-636. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01586.x
[12] F?rster, J., Friedman, R. S., ?zelsel, A., & Denzler, M. (2006). Enactment of approach and avoidance behavior influences the scope of perceptual and conceptual attention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 133-146. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2005.02.004
[13] Fraisse, P. (1963). The psychology of time. New York: Harper & Row.
[14] Friedman, R. S., & F?rster, J. (2001). The effects of promotion and prevention cues on creativity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1001-1013. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.81.6.1001
[15] Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52, 1280-1013. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.52.12.1280
[16] Hinds, P. J. (1999). The curse of expertise: The effects of expertise and debiasing methods on predictions of novice performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 5, 205-221. doi:10.1037/1076-898X.5.2.205
[17] Markman, A. B., Baldwin, G. C., & Maddox, W. T. (2005). The inter action of payoff structure and regulatory focus in classification. Psychological Science, 16, 852-855. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01625.x
[18] Meade, R. D. (1963). Effect of motivation and progress on the estimation of longer time intervals. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65, 564-567. doi:10.1037/h0046552
[19] Navon, D. (1977). Forest before trees: The precedence of global features in visual perception. Cognitive Psychology, 9, 353-383.
[20] Ornstein, R. E. (1969). On the experience of time. Middlesex: Penguin Books. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(77)90012-3
[21] Pennington, G. L., & Roese, N. J. (2003). Regulatory focus and temporal distance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 563-576. doi:10.1016/S0022-1031(03)00058-1
[22] Roy, M. M., & Christenfeld, N .J. S. (2007). Bias in memory predicts bias in estimation of future task duration. Memory & Cognition, 35, 557-564. doi:10.3758/BF03193294
[23] Roy, M. M., & Christenfeld, N. J. S. (2008). Effect of task length on remembered and predicted duration, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 202-207. doi:10.3758/PBR.15.1.202
[24] Roy, M. M., Christenfeld, N. J. S., & McKenzie, C. R. M. (2005). Underestimation of future duration: Memory incorrectly used or memory bias. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 738-756. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.131.5.738
[25] Shah, J., & Higgins, E. T. (1997). Expectancy × value effects: Regulatory focus as determinant of magnitude and direction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 447-458. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.3.447
[26] Thomas, E. A. C., & Weaver, W. B. (1975). Cognitive processing and time perception. Perception and Psychophysics, 17, 363-367. doi:10.3758/BF03199347
[27] Vierordt, K. (1868). Der zeitsinn nach versuchen. Tubingen: H. Laupp.
[28] Wearden, J. H., Norton, R., Martin, S., & Montford-Bebb, O. (2007). Internal clock processes and the filled-duration illusion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33, 716-729. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.33.3.716
[29] Wulf, G. (2007). Attention and motor skill learning. Leeds: Human Kinetics.
[30] Zakay, D., & Block, R. A. (1997). Temporal cognition. Current Direc tions in Psychological Science, 6, 12-16. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.ep11512604

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.