The Dual Role of Time Perception in Trauma-Exposed Individuals: A Conceptual Review

Chava Treitel, Einat Levy-Gigi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: This comprehensive review seeks to integrate knowledge on the dual role of time as a reactive and a constructive measure with literature on the distinctive encoding of traumatic memories. First, we discuss the dual role of time. Later, we show how encoding traumatic events may lead to chronic alteration in time perception. Finally, we review the potential of temporal metacognitive awareness as a therapeutic avenue to rectify chronic time dilation following trauma, ultimately mitigating posttraumatic symptoms. Method: A systematic search of electronic databases was conducted using four main terms: time perception, temporal encoding of traumatic memories, temporal metacognitive awareness, and temporal learning tasks as clinical interventions. Results: The review proposes that the interplay between the dual roles of time—reactive and constructive—alongside the elemental encoding of traumatic events can give rise to a self-perpetuating cycle.Within this cycle, overgeneralized fear could lead to neutral stimuli triggering and fortifying time dilation, thus contributing to the maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Furthermore, we propose that cultivating temporal metacognitive awareness could potentially yield a positive impact on time dilation by embracing a more adaptable learning approach—one that places less emphasis on external signals and does not necessitate direct engagement with traumatic content. Strengthened temporal awareness might serve to mitigate chronic time dilation, potentially leading to a reduction in PTSD symptoms. Conclusion: The review emphasizes the need for further research to examine whether enhancing temporal metacognitive awareness for time duration may offer an innovative and effective avenue for alleviating PTSD symptoms in trauma-exposed individuals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Early online date30 Nov 2023
StateE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association


  • elemental encoding
  • temporal metacognition awareness
  • time perception
  • trauma


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