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What we get wrong about time

The perception of time

Although some physicists would argue against the existence of time, we all do have a perception of time that reflects the reality of our lives on Earth.

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What we get wrong about time

What we get wrong about time

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191203-what-we-get-wrong-about-time

bbc.com

4

Key Ideas

The perception of time

Although some physicists would argue against the existence of time, we all do have a perception of time that reflects the reality of our lives on Earth.

False pasts

Most of us forget more than we remember. We change memories to make sense of what has happened in our lives. When we then recall a memory, we reconstruct the events in our minds and even shape them to fit in with any new information.

Understand the future

Many of us think of our past as a kind of a video library where we can look at records of our lives. If memories were fixed like videotapes, you would find it difficult to imagine a new situation.

It is our past memories that help us imagine a future, and to preview future events. This skill of using the past to predict the future helps us try out different hypothetical scenarios before we commit.

Slowing down

Part of your sense of time passing is dictated by the number of new memories you have made. Time feels as if it is going more slowly when you are bored or feeling lonely or rejected.

In contrast, if life feels as though it's going fast, this could be a sign of a full life. If you lay down many new memories, in retrospect, it can feel as though ages passed.

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Bilinguals

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Time Perception

Different cultures have different perceptions about time. The Mandarin language, for example, places time in a vertical axis, with next week becoming down week, and last week becoming up week.

These differences in language have a psycho-physical effect in bilinguals and change the way the same person experiences the passage of time, depending on which language the brain is operating in.

Flexible Brain Shifting

Studies on Bilinguals prove that language can affect our most basic senses, our time perception, visual perception, and our emotions.

The flexible brain-shifting of bilinguals also aids in their learning, multitasking abilities, and mental well-being.

Our perception of time is subjective

How long an hour, a week, or a year feels is something that changes all the time.

For example, an hour spent coping with tragic news can be perceived as very slow, while an hour of frantic...

Why early years seem longer

  • As we become adults, we tend to take on more time commitments. As our work and domestic lives stabilize, the years increasingly resemble each other. This creates the sense that less “living” happens each year.
  • Children usually have no time commitments; they're told what to do. They also form higher-quality memories (sharper and more lasting), making early years seem so full.

Being present in the moment

  • As adults, we spend much of the time on autopilot, with most of our attention on past, future, or hypothetical moments.
  • As children we’re immersed in present moment, which creates long, vivid days, with many more touchpoints for memory and appreciation.

2 more ideas

The perception of time

There’s a common idea that time feels like it speeds up as you age.

The theory is that the perception of time relies on the number of memories formed in a period. The more new and su...

Time slowed

Time seems like it slowed in March because many of us are being bombarded with new and surprising experiences.

  • We learned that shaking hands could be deadly.
  • That the economy can stop overnight.
  • How isolating lockdown can feel.

Two likely outcomes 

  1. Surprise will sear the events of the last month into our heads permanently. The amount of surprise felt in the previous month means this is a life-defining event that will reshape the world. It will end up similar to the Great Depression or World War II.
  2. Surprise will increase the demand for forecasts. The correct lesson to learn from surprises is that the world is surprising. But a natural response is to cling to any remaining impressions of certainty. The desire to know what will happen next feels urgent.