News Stories

When Time Slows Down

When we?re in danger, time seems to slow down. This may bean evolutionaryadaptation that gives us an opportunity to make the rightmoves to save ourselves. But it doesn?t always work?forinstance, scary movies and amusement park rides aren?tenough to produce a sense of time slowing down. So whatcauses it?

Since riding a roller coaster isn?t scary enough to producethe illusion, scientists tried frightening volunteers bydropping them from great heights backwards, with no ropesattached, into a net that helped break their fall. InLiveScience.com, Charles Q. Choi quotes researcher DavidEagleman as saying, "I knew it was perfectly safe, and Ialso knew that it would be the perfect way to make peoplefeel as though an event took much longer than it actually did."

Choi writes that researchers learned that time slowing downis an impression tied to ourmemory. When aperson is frightened, the part of the brain called theamygdala becomes more active, and gathers extra memories.Choi quotes Eagleman as saying, "In this way, frighteningevents are associated with richer and denser memories, andthe more memory you have of an event, the longer you believeit took." According to Eagleman, this illusion "is relatedto the phenomenon that time seems to speed up as you growolder. When you're a child, you lay down rich memories forall your experiences; when you're older, you've seen it allbefore and lay down fewer memories. Therefore, when a childlooks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lastedforever; adults think it zoomed by."

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