Why can't I perceive time

Slow motion or time lapse: Corona pandemic disrupts the internal clock

London (dpa) - More than 100 years ago, Albert Einstein turned physics on its head when he exposed time, which had been a constant until then, as a relative quantity.

Although it can be measured objectively, time does not pass everywhere and at the same speed for everyone. But the difference is so small that it hardly matters on earth. Time is not only an object of research in physics, but also in psychology, because it has a lot to do with our perception. Here, too, time passes, at least apparently, at different speeds - and clearly.

As a study published in the journal PLOS ONE shows, many people perceived the passage of time during the first corona wave differently than usual. A team led by Ruth Ogden from John Moores University in Liverpool asked around 600 People in the UK between April 7th and April 30th in an online survey about time, mood and personal circumstances. The authors believe that the contact restrictions have provided a rare opportunity to study how disturbances in everyday life affect the perception of time.

More than 80 percent of the respondents stated that the time of the contact restrictions had either passed faster or more slowly than usual for them. Those who were older and dissatisfied with the level of their social contacts, the time often passed more slowly. Those who were younger and more satisfied were more likely to feel that events were accelerating. This was true both for individual days and for entire weeks.

This result is particularly interesting because previous studies show that older people, in retrospect, usually perceive a period of ten years as shorter than younger people. The phenomenon is also commonly known that the years seem to pass faster and faster with increasing age.

The psychology professor Helmut Prior from the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main sees no contradiction. Those who had only a little eventful life during the time of the corona-related contact restrictions may have found individual days to be excruciatingly long, said Prior.

Later, in retrospect, things could turn out differently. "When those for whom this went on for many weeks look back, they almost have the feeling that there was no time at all," said the scientist who was not involved in the study.

The reason for this is that, in retrospect, time is often perceived through events. "There were then only relatively few events that structured it." This is more often the case with older people who are already retired. In addition, older people may also have a greater tendency to ignore negative memories.

For people who were challenged more during the crisis than before, for example parents and employees in systemically relevant professions, time apparently passed faster in the current sense. But in retrospect, it can feel like it's been almost years to her, said Prior.

The authors see a limitation for the informative value of their study in the fact that alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic. How one or the other glass affects the perception of time has not yet been clarified.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200714-99-781245 / 2

Study on the PLOS website

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