Using a pictorial timeline to assess age-related changes in time estimation of daily events

Jing Yu, Heben Cheng, Peng Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


How do older adults compare with younger adults in estimating the timing of daily events, such as heating a meal, keeping an appointment, or taking medication? In Experiment 1, we used a pictorial timeline method to examine age-related changes in how people estimate the time involved in daily events. We also conducted a spatial processing task to control for possible age-related bias in spatial processing. Findings showed that older adults projected smaller windows of time on the timeline to represent the duration of events than did younger adults, which indicates that older adults underestimate time duration. However, older adults also projected smaller windows in spatial task, which creates ambiguity in interpreting the reduced duration estimates among older adults. In Experiment 2, we administered an improved timeline task and spatial task that were comparable in difficulty between age groups and used defined endpoints of the reference line. Consistent with findings from Experiment 1, older adults projected a smaller time window than their younger counterparts, whereas the two age groups showed no differences in estimating spatial distances in the improved spatial experiment. Taken together, our findings suggest that older adults make shorter estimates of the duration of an event than younger adults, and that these age differences are due to age-related differences in orientation to time rather than to a general bias in spatial processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalActa Psychologica
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Attention
  • Event time estimation
  • Pictorial timeline
  • Spatial bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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