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Perception of Time — Living longer

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Ever notice how you perceive time to be shorter or longer even though the same amount of time passes everyday?

I’ve been interested by this for a while and have been reading up on why this is so. I’ve also been putting it to the test.

I’ll start with what I’ve experienced and then spend some time on reasons why that might be so.

One of my fundamentals observations about the past year has been the length of it.

While in an objective sense, it is merely the no of days/hours that have passed, subjective, due to several events that occured during it, time sped up or slowed down and to me has been the longest year of my life so far.

I started questioning why this was so sometime at the end of last year. I have experienced this in the past but, never has it been so stark and in my face.

So, with the start of 2018, I decided to test a few things out.

Through Jan and Feb I recorded my perception of how much time had passed while doing some activities without looking at the clock (read time).

I have the data recorded for all of this and these are some insights that I’ve gathered from my own tests.

There is a strong correlation between how new the experience/activity you are doing is to you and over-estimation of time passed.

There is a strong correlation between how many times you’ve had an experience/done an activity to under-estimation of time passed. But, there is a point after which the under-estimation stagnates and I was probably affected by the knowledge that I was under-estimating perceived time. This makes me an unreliable test subject in some ways.

However, even with that self awareness, I was under-estimating the amount of time passed.

Essentially, most of this boils down for me to, the more you do the same things, the less time you will perceive to have in a day. I’m drawing causations out of correlations here, but, I’ll let that sin pass for now.

The corollary to this is, the more new things you do for the first time, the more time you will perceive to have in a day.

So, that’s what the data hinted at.

After this, I spent some time reading up on actual research that goes beyond my simple empirical abilities.

So, what does the research say?

Well, like most research, none of it conclusive. But, we do know a few things.

The older you are, the more you under-estimate perceived time

Your brain starts fill in the gaps/overlooking things it has already processed if you introduce it to monotony, thereby making it seem like less time has passed than actually has.

The more random an activity/event is, the more you over-estimate the time that has passed.

The more adrenaline pumping through your body, the longer the time perceived.

There are a few other things too, I didn’t find them too useful in terms of applying them to my life.

How does this help me?

Well, now I have one more reason to go and experience more things for the first time. The more of a learner you are, the longer you will perceive to have lived.

This is a super power that allows you to have more than 24 hours in a day.

Why not use it? I know I will.