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The slowed down time of confinement

​Blursday, the first database dedicated to the alteration of the perception of time during the confinement imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been made available to the scientific community by a consortium led by a researcher from the CEA-Joliot. This large-scale participatory study reveals that the feeling of isolation may have induced the perception of slowed time.

Published on 10 October 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic and the distancing and confinement measures it imposed dramatically altered our living conditions, our social interactions and our psychological, physiological and economic well-being. The media quickly referred to the blurry succession of days during this period as Blursday.

In March 2020, a neurobiologist from the CEA-Joliot initiated a study in France on this subject and was quickly joined by some thirty researchers from around the world. In the end, more than 2,800 people living in nine different countries completed a battery of tests developed by experts in the psychology of time (Timing Research Forum). The data was collected at the "peak" of the confinement periods, with longitudinal follow-up lasting from a few weeks to a few months.

The study includes:

  • 15 behavioral tasks (performance measures of cognitive and temporal processes);
  • 14 questionnaires (psychological traits, well-being, mental states, self-reports);
  • demographic data;
  • confinement assessment data (measures of condition during and outside of confinement) for each individual.

The findings show that the feeling of isolation induces a slower passage of time. Similarly, the more isolated the participants feel, the greater the subjective distance to past and future events they feel.

Furthermore, the study reveals that confinement affects the following perceptual bias: participants systematically overestimate durations shorter than 15-20 minutes but underestimate durations longer than 15-20 minutes. This distortion is less pronounced during confinement.

The Blursday database also includes quantitative statistics such as sleep patterns, personality traits, and psychological well-being and isolation indices.

Blursday and all of the data collection tools are now available to researchers so that they may study the effects of social isolation on temporal information processing.

Website on the French study.

The Blursday data server.

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