Does time really speed up as we get older?
I’m six years old, in the car with my parents and brother, travelling back from our annual two week holiday in Conwy, North Wales. It’s dark and the journey seems to take forever. I lie in the back seat, watching the orange streetlights and the houses pass by, wondering if we’re ever going to get home.
My mum plays a https://besthookupwebsites.org/pl/instasext-recenzja/ few games with us to make the time pass faster. We listen to the radio for a while. Then I fall asleep. When I wake up it seems like I’ve been in the car for an eternity and I can’t believe we’re still not home.
The journey from Conwy to Manchester took two hours when I was a child and still takes roughly two hours now (although slightly less due to improvements in roads). I made the journey again a few years ago and couldn’t believe how short it seemed now, from my adult perspective. Those two hours – which seemed like an eternity when I was 6 – were nothing. My girlfriend was driving, and we chatted, listened to tapes, watched the Welsh countryside give way to the urban sprawl of north-west England, and we were back in Manchester almost before we knew it. It was a little frightening – what had happened to all the time that two hours contained when I was six years old?
This story appears to fit with most people’s experience. Most of us feel that time moved very slowly when we were children and is gradually speeding up as we grow older. We’ve all remarked on it: how Christmas seems to come around quicker every year, how you’re just getting used to writing the date of the new year on your cheques and you realise that it’s almost over, how your children are about to finish school when it doesn’t seem long since you were changing their nappies.
Questionnaires by psychologists have shown that almost everyone – including college students – feels that time is passing faster now compared to when they were half or a quarter as old. And perhaps most strikingly, a number of experiments have shown that, when older people are asked to guess how long intervals of time are, or to ‘reproduce’ the length of periods of time, they guess a shorter amount than younger people.
We usually become conscious of this speeding up around our late twenties, when many of us have settled down. We have steady jobs, marriages, and homes, and our lives become ordered into routines – the daily routine of working, coming home, having dinner and watching TV; the weekly routine of perhaps going to the gym on Monday night, going to the cinema on Wednesday night, and going for a drink with friends on Friday night; and the yearly routine of birthdays, bank holidays and two weeks’ holiday in the summer. After a few years, we start to realise that the time it takes us to run through these routines seems to be decreasing, as if we’re on a turntable picking up speed with every rotation.
Why Does Time Seem to Pass at Different Speeds?
This speeding up is probably responsible for the phenomenon which psychologists call forward telescoping: our tendency to think that past events have happened more recently than they actually have. Marriages, deaths, births of a child – when we look back at these and other significant events, we’re often surprised that they happened so long ago, shocked to find that it’s already been four years since a friend died when we thought it was only a couple of years, or that a niece or nephew is already ten years old when it only seems like three or four years since they were born.