The Time Hack

9 Notes

Day 363: Silly String a stranger

What was odd about this activity is that my perception of time sped and slowed depending on the individuals I asked to allow me to coat them in Silly String.

A total of four sets of people were approached on a Thursday evening at roughly 10:00pm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The first was a man walking with a woman whom I would assume was his partner. I very awkwardly asked if he’d be willing to allow me to coat him in the aerosol string, citing a “scavenger hunt-like project”. He declined, mentioning various understandable reasons. Any reason one would give to avoid being covered in Silly String by a stranger is understandable, to be honest. But I digress.

During this experiment, I felt my emotions being dictated by the reactions of the people I approached very early on in this experiment. If those I asked laughed and seemed engaged, despite their willingness to be “stringed”, I felt more comfortable and time passed slowly during our exchange. But if they declined without a smile, time slipped by. And this reaction apparently mirrors new research done on the topic of time perception.

According to Annett Schirmer, a researcher in the department of psychology at the National University of Singapore, evidence suggests that “emotions can both speed up and slow down the internal clock”.

Schirmer states: “Speeding up has been observed for to-be-timed emotional stimuli that have the capacity to sustain attention, whereas slowing down has been observed for to-be-timed neutral stimuli that are presented in the context of emotional distractors.”

That’s nerd talk for ‘if something sustains your attention - like a person who reacts positively and shows attention - time will slow. Whereas, awkwardness can make time slip by.’

Schirmer states that research performed in both non-humans and humans points to the idea that bodily arousal affects time perception. In his research, rats injected with a drug that enhances the amount of dopamine produced in the brain treated a “given duration as longer” than rats injected with simple saline. Dopamine, mind you, produces the brain’s feel-good state following stimulants ranging from candy to cocaine. Whereas, rats in the study injected with drugs that block the amount of dopamine production have had the opposite effect.

Schirmer found that in humans “changes in physiological arousal as assessed by self-report” showed similar results.

Whether the amount of dopamine being produced in my brain had anything to do with the reactions of those asked to be stringed, I am not certain. But one thing is for sure - the man who finally allowed me to cover him in the pink aerosol string surely saw increased amounts of dopamine produced in his brain as well. No question there. Silly String is, after all, completely awesome.


  1. I believe the person who I “Silly Stringed” was named John, an early 20-something with brown hair. 
  2. He was wearing three shirts, which included a black coat, a navy blue zippered sweatshirt and a black t-shirt.
  3. I jumped counter-clockwise around John, coating him with pink Silly String. Directly before making a complete circle, the Silly String ran out, spraying John with gas instead.
  4. At the end of the event, I shook John’s right hand, with my back facing the store front behind me. I told him thanking and that it was “nice of him to help out”. He responded: “Anytime.”
  5. John was with two friends when I stopped him, each had a beard and each had navy blue coats.
  6. At the end of the event, I walked north toward the camera and John headed south, leaving his coat off.


What happened on day 363? Find out here. 


I believe it took 3 minutes and 29 seconds to approach a stranger and convince him to allow me to coat him in Silly String.


How long did it take? Find out here.

Why don’t videos or images of time appear on this site?



  1. delonghi-kaffeevollautomat-esam reblogged this from thetimehack
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  5. tchaike reblogged this from thetimehack and added:
    this is a quality experiment.
  6. thetimehack posted this