What is it about?

The world that we live in is not literal but largely a world we create. This creation is the subject of Gestalt psychology. An example of this creative process is the experience of rhythmic pulse that emerges from a succession of drum strikes or finger taps. The interesting thing about the feeling of rhythm is that it is impossible to experience at tempi much slower than 40 beats per minute, when beats are separated by more than a second and a half. In our research, we take this second and a half seriously and ask where it comes from. What we found is that one source is literally body size; people who are taller can feel rhythmic pulse at slower tempi than people who are shorter. In this sense, size does matter. Even more interesting, is that the relationship between the experience of rhythmic pulse and size is the exact same relationship as the one between heartbeat period and size. But our research isn’t just about music and rhythm; we are interested in all the ways that human experience is disrupted by delays in time. We think that body size influences our experience of time in all ways that involve the creation of the thing we call world.

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Why is it important?

This work is important for two reasons. First, our research shows that the fundamental time scales that govern world creation are biologically determined. In this sense, the human experience is dependent on body size much in the same way as other biological time scales like metabolism and walking speed. Second, our research predicts that, to a child, adults would seem slow and plodding, and to an adult, a child might appear to be inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive. Anybody who can remember back to their experience in elementary school knows that this is true. So, while it may seem that children and adults are living different worlds, they actually are living in different creations.


This work is the product of many years of interesting research, and it is exciting to contribute a novel finding about such a fundamental aspect of the human experience. Additional work in this area already suggests that our ideas apply in a broad range of circumstances, and I look forward to seeing what sort of impact it will have not only on the field but also on the ways in which humans conceptualize their worlds.

Taylor Mezaraups
University of Texas at Austin

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This page is a summary of: Allometric scaling laws for temporal proximity in perceptual organization., Psychological Review, July 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/rev0000307.
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