Wednesday, February 16, 2011

3 Second Rules

In Natural Classicism, Frederick Turner and Ernst Poppel argued that poem line lengths were typically 3 seconds long because that fit into our 3 second sort-term memory slot, and thus represented the human present. Well, a short piece in the 4 Feb. 2001 Science argues that Hugs Follow a 3-Second Rule, a finding which "supports a hypothesis that we go through life perceiving the present in a series of 3-second windows." Further, they observe that "Crossculural studies have shown that goodbye waves, musical phrases, and infants' bouts of babbling and gesturing all last about 3 seconds, as do many basic physiological events, such as relaxed breathing." The piece argues that "The results reinforce an idea current among some psychologists that intervals of about 3 seconds are basic temporal units of life that define our perception of the present moment." As Turner and Poppel observed several decades ago, this has real consequences for literary production -- at least, poetic production. This also perhaps argues in favor of verse plays as a way of helping actors memorize their lines (and if it's rhythmic verse, the rhythm will help as well). But do these facts come into play in prose fiction? If so, how? Might we see these things at play in character interactions? If so, how?

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