How your brain affects time

Recently I heard a segment on NPR (National Public Radio) that piqued my interest, and so I have posted a link to it. You can read a text article (the Homer Simpson “Every Day” video is amusing), or listen to what went out on the radio here:

Why Does Time Fly By As You Get Older?-NPR

What they discuss is why it seems like time passes more quickly as one ages, and it seems like time moved so much more slowly when we were children. The person being interviewed explains that there is a neurological reason for this. They have a more detailed explanation in the article, but the analogy they use is that we “write things down” in more detail in our brains when we experience them for the first time, and so our perception is more vividly remembered.

If we therefore write things down in great detail on first experience, but less so upon further experience, one might compare Dickens’ writing (long, winding paragraphs, since he got paid by the word) with Hemingway’s (he was taught to be short and to the point, and it showed in his writing). When you ask a child about their first day of school, they will tell you about everything from the appearance of the school, to all the kids they met, to the teacher, and everything they did (Dickensian). If you ask a teenager about their first day of school, you will most likely get something to the effect of, “School was okay,” (Hemingway). It is effectively the same answer; the brain has simply learned to write for the Readers’ Digest.

My thoughts on this are as follows: time goes by far too fast as it is, it’s true, and on this planet one thing we have in common is that we are all still limited to the same 24 hour day. However, if our brain can “slow down time” when it is processing new information, then why not keep providing it with more? One could try to learn a new language, right now, or start attending classes at your local community college. Go to a new country; there’s plenty of them out there, and as a bonus you can volunteer or do missions work.

If renewed perception is indeed the key to slowing down time, maybe people are spending too much time doing the same thing. My advice: embrace the random in your daily life. Take an alternate route sometimes, go to different grocery stores, maybe actually read a book instead of watching TV, or chuck them both and go to the park. Play hooky from your job, as long as you have a vacation/sick day to take. I think it would be fun to invent a holiday that only you and a select few know about; and you have to be really “in the know” to know about it. “Talk Like A Pirate Day” probably started like that.


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