Why does time seem to slow down during car accidents and scary situations?
When we’re afraid, our brain attempts to remember as much about the situation as possible so we can avoid things associated with it in the future. Because of this, our perception is distorted and life seems to slow down.
Chess Stetson, Matthew Fiesta, and Eagleman believe that this sensation of time slowing is a by-product of the fact that our brains simply remember more information during traumatic experiences. Just as your computer hard drive occasionally backs up every single piece of data you have, traumatic events kick the brain into a type of hyperdrive where the tiniest details are stored for later use. Thus when you go bungee jumping or skydiving, time runs at the usual pace but it seems slower because your brain is filling in so many details that the experience seems to expand and your later memory of it is also particularly detailed.
Perception of time is quite malleable.
- A good way to feel less busy is to volunteer some of your time. Counterintuitively, spending time on others makes us feel less time-constrained.
- We prefer websites that take longer to load over quicker ones if it seems like the site is “exerting effort.”
- Yes, time does seem to speed up as you age. “if you’re 20 today, you’re already halfway through life, in terms of your subjective experience of how time passes… Basically, if you’re older than about 30, you’re almost dead.”
- It’s not a perception trick in this case: people really do take longer leaving a parking spot when they see you waiting for it.