Sunday, August 11, 2013

Travels in the Fourth Dimension

‘Time Warped’ Looks at How We Perceive, and Misperceive, Time

In “Time Warped,” Claudia Hammond, a British radio journalist and psychology lecturer, delves into scores of experiments on how we track the seconds, hours, months and decades. At each duration she finds distortions and paradoxes, revealing the persistent “capriciousness, strangeness and mutability” of time as we sense it.
Or consider the opposite effect. A vacation filled with activities may pass quickly, but once you get home, all those new memories can give the illusion that you’ve been away longer. Ms. Hammond believes this “holiday paradox,” caused by our tendency to gauge passing time by the number of new memories formed, may be at the heart of a more perplexing problem: that time appears to speed up as we get older.
Playing down other explanations for this lifelong sense of acceleration — that our internal clocks naturally slow as we age, or that every minute represents a smaller fraction of our life span — she argues that the real reason for the quickening of time is that a high concentration of strong memories occur in the teens and 20s, making that period a “benchmark for our judgments of retrospective time.” As new memories become sparser, later life seems brief compared with our eventful youth, giving the illusion that time has sped up

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