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In her latest book “Of This World“, Stella Pierides, writer and poet, includes a Haibun titled Touching, which was written in response to one of our recent research studies: Watching a real moving object expands tactile duration: the role of task-irrelevant action context for subjective time (Jia, Shi, Zang, & Müller, 2015). This is a new perspective on our scientific research. We reprint her haibun with her kind permission. Enjoy!


Imagine your left hand is being made to feel a brief vibration and you’re being asked to estimate how long this vibration lasts. In one version of this scenario, you are holding a small ball in both hands; in another, your right hand is free. And in both versions, you see a safely suspended, potentially catchable ball moving towards you.

Would your estimate of the vibration duration be the same in both versions, or would it be different? Scientists tell us that we overestimate the duration of the vibration when our right hand is free.

Surprised? The scenario may sound unlikely, but all for a good reason: the investigation of the experience of tactile time. Perhaps unlike other bodily times, touch time appears as if time slowed. Your hand is free and ready to interact with the possibilities of a touchable object. The present moment gathers momentum: memories, anticipations, balance, co-ordination, visual cues… the time your father threw you a ball to catch, your sister’s expert throw, your playful nature entertaining the idea to catch the ball and surprise the scientists… Time slows for the possibilities; time slows with possibilities. The ‘touch’ body and the ‘touch’ mind ready themselves for the game.

a deer appears at the edge
of the woods