Mind Over Matter: Perception of Time Influences Wound Healing

Summary: Perceived time significantly impacts the healing of physical wounds. Researchers found wounds healed faster when participants believed more time had passed, challenging conventional beliefs about psychological effects on physical health.

The research emphasizes the need to consider a broader range of psychological influences on physical well-being and suggests that abstract beliefs about the body’s functioning directly affect health outcomes.

Further investigations aim to uncover the underlying mechanisms and broader implications of this intriguing discovery.

Key Facts:

  1. Perceived time plays a crucial role in the actual healing process of physical wounds, regardless of the actual elapsed time.
  2. The study suggests a broader range of psychological influences on physical health, beyond the traditional focus on emotions and behavior.
  3. Researchers are conducting further investigations to better understand the mechanisms and implications of this mind-body connection in health.

Source: Harvard

Perceived time has a significant impact on the actual time it takes to heal physical wounds, according to new research by Harvard psychologists Peter Aungle and Ellen Langer.

Their study, published late last month in Nature Scientific Reports, challenges conventional beliefs about psychological influences on physical health.

This shows an eye as a clock.
Wounds were documented as healing faster when participants believed more time had passed. Credit: Neuroscience News

The findings suggest a broader range of psychological influences than is currently appreciated.

To complete their study, the authors used a standardized procedure to mildly wound volunteer subjects. Perceived time was then manipulated in the lab, with each study participant completing three experimental conditions: Slow Time (0.5x real time), Normal Time (1x real time), and Fast Time (2x real time).

Wounds were documented as healing faster when participants believed more time had passed. Likewise, the healing process proved slower when less time was perceived to have gone by. Actual time elapsed was the same under all three conditions.

Further research is underway to better understand the underlying mechanisms and broader implications of these findings. In the meanwhile, the study makes a compelling case for more fully incorporating the idea of mind-body “unity” into subsequent inquiries on mind-body health effects. In particular, researchers are urged to consider a broader range of psychological influences on physical health.

Psychological influences on physical health are typically understood in terms of influences on emotion (e.g., stress, inflammation, and immune function) and behavior (e.g., beliefs that promote healthy actions). This research suggests abstract beliefs about how our bodies work also directly shape physical health.

About this time perception research news

Author: Christy DeSmith
Source: Harvard
Contact: Christy DeSmith – Harvard
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Physical healing as a function of perceived time” by Peter Aungle et al. Scientific Reports


Physical healing as a function of perceived time

In this study we wounded study participants following a standardized procedure and manipulated perceived time to test whether perceived time affected the rate of healing.

We measured the amount of healing that occurred across three conditions using a within-subjects design: Slow Time (half as fast as clock time), Normal Time (clock time), and Fast Time (twice as fast as clock time).

Based on the theory of mind–body unity—which posits simultaneous and bidirectional influences of mind on body and body on mind—we hypothesized that wounds would heal faster or slower when perceived time was manipulated to be experienced as longer or shorter respectively.

Although the actual elapsed time was 28 min in all three conditions, significantly more healing was observed in the Normal Time condition compared to the Slow Time condition, in the Fast Time condition compared to the Normal Time condition, and in the Fast Time condition compared to the Slow Time condition.

These results support the hypothesis that the effect of time on physical healing is directly affected by one’s psychological experience of time, independent of the actual elapsed time.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.
  1. Don’t recall the exact description, but a number of years ago a Yoga instructor (who was only around for a month or so) taught a form of mindfulness Yoga that diminishes the degree of physical pain from consciousness.
    Not only was this effective with extreme yoga sessions, but I’ve used this method when ever I’ve been inflicted with high levels of pain, both planned (ie. Dental work) or accidental.
    In incidences of severe plan, on a Scale of Ten, I’ve been able to reduce it from say a 7-8 down to a manageable 2-3.

  2. I teach a style of yoga that focuses on nervous system health. A side benefit when practiced consistently is improved function. Sitting at a desk all day isn’t the problem. The problem is that our hips don’t get used in all the different ways they were designed. Kaiut Yoga has the answer and it makes physical therapy seem outdated. Conventional approaches disregard the nervous system.

  3. I still wouldn’t put my hopes up on the public healthcare system, they were wasting people’s time, they want you to come more, which is up to you to decide if you would go, I believe no one in their right mind can live it repeatedly. I can’t stand it, no one should be voluntarily receiving this kind of bedmanner from healthcare worker. If they ever lay a finger on me without my consent, I will certainly hurt them. Their job, in the end, is to heal. They are not doing it.

  4. so it proves again that time does not exist, it would be curious to see more of this kind of research

  5. One has to wonder if hypnotically progressing a person to future when their wound healing was complete would have a beneficial effect on the healing process.

  6. This is fascinating and gives me hope! I have been dealing with painful panic attacks from trauma with such horrible physical effects and still unable to find a doctor or therapist who can help me learn any kind of coping skills. I have had MRIs, CAT scans, ultrasounds,colon and endoscopy, antidepressants and nobody knows how to help me feel better. This gives me hope that what I’ve believed all this time is true…my trauma is affecting me physically and now hopefully medical professionals can use this information to not only help end my suffering but also help others because everyone deserves to feel good in their own mind and body without judgement.

    1. Hi Victoria! I am so sorry to hear about your trauma and the way you’ve been feeling. The only thing that helped me was giving God a chance, someone suggested I read the Gospel and John and I didn’t think it could hurt…we’ll, my life is now full and though not perfect, it is definitely so much better and full of hope. Just thought I would share this with you. ♥️

Comments are closed.