The perception of time during our lives
How many times have we used the expression “time flies”? It appears that time speeds up or slows down depending on what we’re doing and what’s happening in our lives.
For example, when we’re sitting in a waiting room, we have this sensation of time becoming sluggish. On the contrary, when we’re having fun, we perceive time as like the blink of an eye—fast and instant.
But, how do we consider time within the scope of our entire lives?
Studies have shown that subjective time accelerates as we get older. Although time is a never-ending constant, this perception appears because we have busier schedules and feel that time runs short when it comes to taking care of ourselves.
This perception is related to autobiographical memory, which is the combination of personal experience and our knowledge of the world. We come to rely on memory when we consider the duration of the passage of time. Events that were emotional or intriguing to us dwell in our memory and convey this perception of having lasted longer than in actual reality.
A study by Avni Badad and Ritov (2003) entitled “Routine and the perception of time” showed that as we age, people experience more routine, which—both on holidays or during work days— tends to foster the perception of time flying. Along the same line of thinking, a lack of new, exciting events leads to subjective time appearing as faster.
People who have children tend to feel that time quickens in pace. This observation perhaps occurs because children go through major physical and mental changes throughout a 10-year period. Another reason for this type of impression is because the actual role of being a parent implies a more committed involvement in your children’s lives and, as a result, less time for yourself.
If you look back on the past 10 years, how fast did that time pass by?
In Virtualtimes, we analyze and study the sense and structure of time, which can be distorted due to certain psychopathological conditions. Funded by the European Union, this project aims to provide individuals with opportunities to re-experience and normalize a variant and distorted sense of time.
Avni-Babad, D., & Ritov, I. (2003). Routine and the perception of time. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 132(4), 543.
Wittmann, M., & Mella, N. (2021). Having children speeds up the subjective passage of lifetime in parents. Timing & Time Perception, 1, 1-9