Thinking aloud influences perceived time

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Objective: We investigate whether thinking aloud influences perceived time.
Background: Thinking aloud is widely used in usability evaluation, yet it is debated whether thinking aloud influences thought and behavior. If thinking aloud is restricted to the verbalization of information to which a person is already attending, there is evidence that thinking aloud does not influence thought and behavior.
Method: In an experiment, 16 thinking-aloud participants and 16 control participants solved a code-breaking task 24 times each. Participants estimated task duration. The 24 trials involved two levels of time constraint (timed, untimed) and resulted in two levels of success (solved, unsolved).
Results: The ratio of perceived time to clock time was lower for thinking-aloud than control participants. Participants overestimated time by an average of 47% (thinking aloud) and 94% (control). The effect of thinking aloud on time perception also held separately for timed, untimed, solved, and unsolved trials.
Conclusion: Thinking aloud (verbalization at Levels 1 and 2) influences perceived time. Possible explanations of this effect include that thinking aloud may require attention, cause a processing shift that overshadows the perception of time, or increase mental workload.
Application: For usability evaluation, this study implies that time estimates made while thinking aloud cannot be compared with time estimates made while not thinking aloud, that ratings of systems experienced while thinking aloud may be inaccurate (because the experience of time influences other experiences), and that it may therefore be considered to replace concurrent thinking aloud with retrospective thinking aloud when evaluations involve time estimation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)101-109
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - verbalization, thinking aloud, perceived time, usability evaluation, attention

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