Why Does Time Speed Up as You Get Older? (Psychology Today)

This is a really interesting read about time from Psychology Today. If you enjoy the information below then click on the ‘Psychology Today’ link at the bottom of the page to read the whole article. The last paragraph in the original article is worth a read.

Here’s how to fight the feeling that the days, weeks and months are rushing by.

It’s become a truism to the point of cliche that in the year 2020, the passage of time is not what it used to be.  People joke about not being able to remember what day it is; we look back over the past nine months goggle-eyed, shocked that so much time has passed.

This effect—of time passing at subjectively different rates—has been identified experimentally, too: research tells us that time appears to pass more slowly when one feels rejected, becomes ill with a fever, or falls into a depression . 

But other factors can cause long-term effects, as well.

Many people have probably noticed this same effect in their normal lives, as they get older.  And it’s true: Age does seem to have a significant effect on the subjective perception of time.

Anecdotally, this turns out to be a very recognizable phenomenon: Claudia Hammond, of the BBC, previously reported on evidence that younger people are better than older people at guessing how long it takes for a minute to pass, without counting the seconds.

The effect has been chronicled experimentally, as it was in 2005 by Marc Wittmann and Sandra Lenhoff.  Almost 500 subjects, of various ages, were surveyed about the speed with which they felt time passing.

Over short time periods, such as a week, the participants did not seem to experience time differently.

However, over long periods of time (like years), the older subjects reported that time felt as though it was passing more rapidly.

To account for this effect, several hypotheses have been advanced.  First, as Hammond explained, time is gauged in two different ways.  People can assess the passage of time right now, prospectively, in ways that may be distinct from their retrospective perception of how quickly last week or last month went by.

By that rationale, there will always be a difference between the current experience of a day and the recollection of days gone by in the past.

But there’s also the possibility that children and adults are using different methods to remember the events of their lives, as Jessica Stillman reported on Inc.com.

When we’re young, our circumstances may seem more unique or special, and children may therefore tend to remember their experiences in more specific ways (such as “the time at the lake when we ran off the edge of the dock, still wearing our clothes”).

Adults, however, are more likely to group their experiences into larger, less specific memories (like “our week at the lake last summer”)


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