Something as random as the length of a song can mean misjudging the time it will take to do something.
According to a study in the J of Experimental Psychology, people also base the time they think they will need to do something on how long it took them to do it before.
However--outside influences, such as background music, can throw that off.
Say you are running--the number of songs that play in your headphones can cause you to over or understimate how long you ran.
How long something will take is called--prospective memory. Is that an oxymoron?
Some researchers at Arts & Sciences tried to see the difference between young and old people in this respect. They gathered 36 college undergrads and 34 healthy adults in their-60s-80s.
First they were asked to estimate how long a trivia test had lasted--it was 11 minutes for all. Some did the test with no background noise, the others heard either two long songs or four short songs.
Later, the participants were asked to put together as much of a puzzle as they could in 20 minutes--again no clock.
Both ages groups completed future tasks on time at the same rate--but the older adults reported ignoring the songs and relying on their internal clock. Seniors underestimated on the first test and ran long on the second.
The younger adults who heard two long songs performed like the older adults. But for younger people, the music played a big role in being early or late.
In other words, the tricks we use to stay on time vary as we age.
The researchers also concluded that checking a clock, if one is available, is better than relying on a feeling about elapsed time.
Also, they say good news for older adults--the ability to do complex time-related tasks may be preserved into old age.
I believe they call this experience on other planets.