If you were to ask any youngster about their experience from one school year to the next, they would probably tell you that it seemed like a never-ending process. Perhaps you can even think back to the time when you were younger and how the year just seemed to stretch on and on and it almost seemed as if the new year would never arrive. As we get older, however, we begin to realize that we are no longer living in that type of a time warp and now, our days are speeding by faster and faster with each passing year.
If you have experienced this in your life, you might be interested in what neuroscientist David Eagleman has to say on the subject. Not only does he talk about some of the science behind the different speeds of time that we experience throughout our life, but he also gives a rather interesting experience of his own.
In his experience, which you can see in the video below, he talks about falling off a roof of a house and watching the red brick pavement getting closer and closer as he fell. This must’ve been a terrifying experience for him and it seemed as if it was going in extremely slow motion. Interestingly, his experience is one that may be rooted in psychological fact. It may be explained with a number of studies that have shown that, in adults, especially if you are over 40, time is perceived as moving faster than when you were a child.
According to Eagleman, time is a ‘psychological construct’ and may vary between ages, cultures and even individuals. “It can be different in your head and my head,” he says. “Your brain is locked in silence and darkness inside the vault of your skull.” In order to “figure out what’s going on outside,” it’s got to do “a lot of editing tricks.” One of the tricks is to make us feel as if we are living life in the moment when it may actually be happening about half a second in the past.
When we are faced with some type of novelty, we may notice the gap because the brain works harder to process new information. It also creates a thicker memory with more descriptions. As a result of the extra processing, Eagleman says it seems to take more time for those items to occur. It is almost as if we are living in slow motion, at least as far as our perception is concerned. This may also be associated with our childhood experiences and anything we experience in an emergency situation when we have to move into some type of new reality quickly.
Writer Charles Bukowski was quoted as saying: “as you live many years, things take on a repeat…. You keep seeing the same thing over and over again.” When we are living in a familiar world, we don’t have to use much energy to perceive what is taking place around us. Since we are gathering fewer details within our memories, it seems as if time is flying by.
If you would like a remedy to this situation, Eagleman says you can seek out novelty. Something such as brushing your teeth with your opposite hand or wearing your watch on the other hand.
These may be simple examples but it still drives home the point, we need to vary our experiences to slow down our perception of time. Anything we can do in adulthood to change our routine may make our older years seem more like in our younger years.
Psychologists James Broadway and Brittaney Sandoval wrote in Scientific American, “Our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.”
It may also have something to do with why our younger years seem to be so much sweeter. Looking back on those years with nostalgia, however, will not take the place of meeting new people, learning new interesting facts, reading a new book, hearing new music or visiting new places. Get out there and experience something new and you might just see time slow down for you after all.