Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Vacation Days - Faster Than a Speeding Bullet
Having just returned from ten days of vacation, I sit here and wonder, "where the heck did the time go to?" The weeks leading up to my vacation seemed to just drag, and then a few days before with preparation and anticipation, there seemed to be less than adequate hours available in order to get things done. Then BAM, we're on the airplane heading out of town and anticipating some fabulous memory-making days ahead. I found the following article about why time seems to fly faster the older we get. I thought the author made some really good points of fact.
As people get older, "they just have this sense, this feeling that time is going faster than they are," says Warren Meck, a psychology professor at Duke University.
This seems to be true across cultures, across time, all over the world.
No one is sure where this feeling comes from.
Scientists have theories, of course, and one of them is that when you experience something for the very first time, more details, more information gets stored in your memory. Think about your first kiss.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman of Baylor College of Medicine says that since the touch of the lips, the excitement, the taste, the smell — everything about this moment is novel — you aren't embroidering a bank of previous experiences, you are starting fresh.
Have you noticed, he says, that when you recall your first kisses, early birthdays, your earliest summer vacations, they seem to be in slow motion? "I know when I look back on a childhood summer, it seems to have lasted forever," he says.
That's because when it's the "first", there are so many things to remember. The list of encoded memories is so dense, reading them back gives you a feeling that they must have taken forever. But that's an illusion. "It's a construction of the brain," says Eagleman. "The more memory you have of something, you think, 'Wow, that really took a long time!'
"Of course, you can see this in everyday life," says Eagleman, "when you drive to your new workplace for the first time and it seems to take a really long time to get there. But when you drive back and forth to your work every day after that, it takes no time at all, because you're not really writing it down anymore. There's nothing novel about it."
That may be because the brain records new experiences — especially novel and exciting experiences — differently. This is even measurable. Eagleman's lab has found that brains use more energy to represent a memory when the memory is novel.
So, first memories are dense. The routines of later life are sketchy. The past wasn't really slower than the present. It just feels that way.
Older people have novel experiences — lots of them. Some of us have crazier middle ages than youths. We fall in love, out of love. Then our parenting years are filled with watching our babies' first thises, first thats. Retired people travel — if they can afford to — to duplicate some of those rushes of novel experiences.
Yes, it's true, the youngest years are chock full of novelty, but Duke's Warren Meck points out that when you hit your 60s and 70s, and time is beginning to run out, experiences get more precious and once again you remember all the details.
So take this "novelty" explanation for why time moves faster as you age and weigh it as you will.
Posted by Lillian Child at 12:39:00 PM