According to a new study by Harvard psychologists Peter Aungle and Ellen Langer, perceived time has a significant influence on the actual time needed to heal physical wounds.
Their study, published at the end of last month in Scientific Reports, challenges conventional beliefs about psychological influences on physical health. The results suggest a broader spectrum of psychological influences than is currently believed.
To conclude their study, the authors used a standardized procedure to slightly injure volunteer participants. Subsequently, perceived time in the lab was manipulated, with each study participant fulfilling three experimental conditions: Slow Time (0.5 times real time), Normal Time (1 times real time), and Fast Time (2 times real time).
It was documented that wounds healed faster when participants believed more time had passed. Similarly, the healing process proved to be slower when less time had passed. The actual elapsed time was the same under all three conditions.
Further research is underway to better understand the underlying mechanisms and broader impact of these results. In the meantime, the study provides a compelling argument for incorporating the idea of the „unity of mind and body“ more comprehensively into future inquiries on the effects of mind and body on health. In particular, researchers are urged to consider a broader spectrum of psychological influences on physical health.
Psychological influences on physical health are typically understood as influences on emotions (e.g., stress, inflammation, and immune function) and behavior (e.g., beliefs that promote healthy actions). This research suggests that abstract beliefs about how our body functions also have a direct impact on physical health.
Aungle, P. & Langer, E. (2023). Körperliche Heilung als Funktion der wahrgenommenen Zeit. Wissenschaftliche Berichte. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-50009-3.