The Weight of Time: Affordances for an Integrated Magnitude System

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In five experiments we explored the effects of weight on time in different action contexts to test the hypothesis that an integrated magnitude system is tuned to affordances. Larger magnitudes generally seem longer; however, Lu and colleagues (2009) found that if numbers were presented as weights in a range heavy enough to affect lifting, the “larger seems longer” effect was enhanced, but it was eliminated with weights too light to affect lifting. Experiments 1 and 2 revealed that actually lifting kilogram and gram weights had effects parallel to symbolized weights, suggesting that Lu et al.'s task implicitly evoked a lifting context. Experiments 3 and 4 showed that weights too heavy (e.g., tons) or too light to be discriminated by lifting, but relevant to other affordances (e.g., grams of a toxin) had effects on time as large or larger than for kilograms. Experiment 5 showed that the effect for grams in a toxicology context did not generalize to the lifting task of Experiment 2. Weight appears to integrate with other magnitudes when it is relevant to meaningful actions, including but not limited to lifting.

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