February 3, 2010
Time sure flies
It’s February already. My friends, wife and colleagues are flabbergasted at the beginning of each month. How did a full month just pass? The same shock occurred on January 1st. What happened to 2009? Where did it go?
I heard a fantastic story on NPR yesterday about the sensation of time going by faster as we age. I have often wondered why this occurs. I’ve also questioned how a day must seem like a second to my parents. It certainly is beginning to feel that way to me. The story explained some theories as to why time seems to go by faster as we age.
When you experience something for the very first time, more details, more information gets stored in your memory. Think about childhood summers, didn’t they seem to last forever?
Now think about when you drive somewhere new and you’re not familiar with the area. The return drive home always seems to take a much shorter amount of time (minus traffic of course).
That may be because the brain records new experiences — especially novel and exciting experiences — differently. It has been found that brains use more energy to represent a memory when the memory is novel.
Time for a test
NPR performed this test on people on the street. They asked random people to close their eyes and (without counting) let them know when they thought one minute was up. The youngest people (early 20’s) felt that one minute had ended in about 50 seconds. Older people (60+) thought it had ended in 90 seconds. Interesting.
Try this yourself. How long did it take for your minute to pass? Does it compare to their findings?
If an older person were to stand on a street corner and count the number of car horns they hear for one minute, more horns will be heard than expected. This is because they are actually counting the horns for about 90 seconds. So it will appear that more things are happening, it will appear that the world is going by faster.
Another theory is that when you are six years old, two years is a third of your life. When you’re 63, two years is one-thirty-second of your life. So it should naturally feel faster.
How quickly is time passing for you these days? How can we slow time?
In addition to the thought-provoking story, NPR produced this video to help illustrate time passing. Enjoy it.