New research shows that people rate an activity as more fun when they were tricked into thinking time flew by during the task. Could this method even make chores like shoveling snow seem more fun? (Photo: Jonathan Kirn/Getty Images)

Everyone knows that “time flies when you’re having fun,” but a new study suggests that the reverse is also true.

When people are tricked into thinking that time has “flown by,” they react to their surprise at the passage of time by assuming that it means they must have been having fun, says Aaron Sackett, a psychology researcher at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

Sackett recently did some experiments to see whether people’s sense of having fun, or not, might be affected just by how fast time seemed to be going by.

After all, he knew that fun isn’t the only thing that can make time seem to speed up, Our sense of time can be influenced by things like drinking coffee, or being on an adrenaline rush. “Would people draw maybe false conclusions about how much they enjoyed an experience based on simply the perception that time had ‘flown by’ or ‘dragged by’ during it?” Sackett wondered.

He wanted to test this in the lab, but he knew he couldn’t change the actual speed of time itself. “What we had to do instead is focus on speeding up or slowing down the perceived, or felt, passage of time from an individual’s perspective,” he explains.

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