How many times have you felt the time fly on a busy day or felt it drag when you least wanted it to? Why does time seem to go faster or slower depending on what else is going on?
Most of us will be familiar with the experience of time passing excruciatingly slowly when we’re waiting for something to happen.
Studies have shown this is especially the case when we are looking forward to something, said cognitive neuroscientist Muireann Irish from the University of Sydney.
Think about a child who repeatedly asks, “Are we there yet?” or, “How long before I can open my Christmas presents?”
And time can appear to drag even more slowly if you’re the impulsive type, who gets restless or even angry when you don’t get what you want immediately.
In a study by German psychologist Marc Wittmann, people forced to sit in a room without doing anything for seven-and-a-half minutes felt the time passed differently, depending on who they were. Some said the duration was just two-and-a-half minutes, while for the most impulsive it felt like 20.
So it’s not just external factors, but who we are that influences our perception of time. But how does that work?
Fast v slow: How does our brain sense time?
There’s no real consensus on where and how in the brain time is processed, said Dr Wittman, who is from the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg.
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