The Psychology of Time
Introduction (Via NPR)
Yes, we all get older. But now, getting older has become a video fetish; all kinds of people take pictures of themselves every day for six, seven, eight years and then blend the images together into a … well, if you’ve missed the Web craze, Homer Simpson’s “Every Day” is a perfect catcher-upper.
Not only can you see Homer switching jobs (cavalryman, Indian, king, infantryman, fisherman, fireman), you watch his body grow, swell, swag. As with all things Simpson, the physical changes are dramatic.
But what these videos don’t show are the psychological changes, and one of the most universal changes is that as humans age, they change the way they feel about time.
Scientists have theories, of course, and one of them is that when you experience something for the very first time, more details, more information gets stored in your memory. Think about your first kiss.
Have you noticed, he says, that when you recall your first kisses, early birthdays, your earliest summer vacations, they seem to be in slow motion? “I know when I look back on a childhood summer, it seems to have lasted forever,” he says.
That’s because when it’s the “first”, there are so many things to remember. The list of encoded memories is so dense, reading them back gives you a feeling that they must have taken forever. But that’s an illusion. “It’s a construction of the brain,” says Eagleman. “The more memory you have of something, you think, ‘Wow, that really took a long time!’