My apologies for the lapse in posting. The last month and a half flew by vacationing with one of my daughters and her family; preparing for two different 75 minute talks, working a booth and presenting at a conference in California; revising one of my books; enjoying time with my son who was in town; and completing all the regular daily work, home, and family activities.

Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it speeds way past us. Other times it crawls slower than a turtle. The clock continuously clicks away at the same speed whether we are lost in a movie or worrying about our teenager out on a Saturday night. It isn’t time but our perception of it that changes with the events that are occurring.

Children perceive  the arrival of Christmas morning as endless, unlike middle-aged adults who feel like we just packed up those decorations. When we consider that a four-year old waited a quarter of their life for Christmas to come again, it’s easier to comprehend their anticipation.

The concept of time has intrigued philosophers since antiquity, although much remains unclear even today. Numerous in-depth studies have been made. Recent ones incorporate psychology, memory, biological functions, environmental changes, circadian rhythm, and the relationship between time as perceived and time as measured in physics.

Time is defined as the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues. It is the period when something occurs. Time is related to the complex experience of change. The succession of events and changes are separated by intervals called duration—such as the duration of a dinner, a walk through the park, or shaking someone’s hand.

Few durations are isolated. Most overlap. For example, we text while eating and listening to the radio.

We have no specific receptor for time, unlike our senses of taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Time perception is subjective. Psychologists believe there is a neurological system associated with sensory pathways governing the perception of time. It utilizes a distributed system in the brain. Since time cannot be directly perceived, it must be constructed.

The perception of time requires attention. New events appear to take longer because we must pay attention to them more intently. Older events are connected to our memory and already processed to some degree. Doesn’t it feel as if the trip going to a destination typically seems longer than the return home?

Attention to time comes with attention to the stream of time-data without losing concentration, which is why those with attention-deficit find it more challenging to gauge time correctly.

Time disorientation is common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This probably is connected to the inability to concentrate as well as the mounting challenge of reading clues such as the rise and fall of the sun and hands on a clock. The person with Alzheimer’s only knows how it feels to them at the moment, since they increasingly live in the moment. For example, it may feel like we haven’t seen them in weeks when in reality, we just walked out the door. It may feel to them as if they showered moments ago, when they haven’t showered in days.

Metabolic rate also may affect the perception of time. The larger the animal, the slower their metabolic rate, and the quicker their perception of time. Smaller animals metabolize faster resulting in a slower perception of time allowing them to perceive more events in the same time span.

©2015, Mary K Doyle

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