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Why does time fly quickly when we are having fun and slow down when we are bored?


By “M”Published 2 months ago 4 min read

You might be surprised if you learned that there is a scientific reason why you feel that time passes quickly when you are having fun, and passes very slowly when you feel bored, in addition to your feeling that time has become faster as you get older compared to the time when you were young.

Scientists have studied how our sense of time works, and have already found that while the basic measure of time remains constant and accurate (the world's most accurate clocks operate at a constant pace, erring by only one second every 300 million years), our perception of it remains subjective and subject to... For distortion, the brain does not keep time like a normal clock, and this is due to a variety of factors including attention, memory, emotions, biological rhythms, and age.

Human perception of time is very flexible and not rigid like the ticking of a mechanical clock. Our internal perception of time is able to expand or compress in response to our mental and emotional state, the environment, and even physiological conditions.

The experience of feeling that time is speeding up or slowing down is a common experience, to the point that it has become part of our daily terms through which we express our love for someone, that time passes quickly in their company, or that this work is so boring that our brain almost stops.

But what causes this strange perception of time, and what makes time seem to speed up or slow down?

According to the Live Science website, it is certain that there are many timing mechanisms in the brain, meaning “endogenous timing mechanisms,” and they have nothing to do with known circadian rhythms or how our body relates to the Earth’s 24-hour rotation.

Time perception is a complex interaction between our attention, memory, and emotions

The brain's internal clock

Neuroscientists have found that our brain contains an adaptable “internal clock” that can expand or contract time based on our experiences and states of consciousness,

Based on this “brain clock” model, our brains produce pulses or “beats” at certain intervals of time, which we consider the passage of time. When we are excited or afraid, our brains produce more impulses in a given period, making time appear to slow down, and when we are relaxed or distracted, our brains produce fewer impulses, making time appear to speed up.

Motivation to reach the goal

When people experience positive emotions or states, they feel like time passes faster than when they experience negative emotions. However, research has shown evidence that not all positive states are created equal.

A study whose results were published in 2012 in the Journal of Psychology, affiliated with the Association for Psychological Science, showed that time passes faster when we want to get closer to something.

This means that when time moves faster it is a result of our desire to approach or pursue something, rather than a more general effect of increased interest or physiological arousal.

Time also seems to speed up as we get older

Dopamine clock

Researchers found that a group of neurons that release the neurotransmitter "dopamine" - an important chemical involved in the feeling of reward - affects how the brain perceives time. When you are having fun, these cells are more active and secrete a lot of dopamine, and your brain judges that time is less. has already passed. When you are not having fun, these cells do not secrete as much dopamine and time seems to slow down.

The dopamine clock hypothesis says that increased dopamine release leads to an acceleration of the subjective sense of time, i.e. the internal clock. Unexpectedly pleasurable events boost the release of dopamine, causing your internal clock to run faster, so your personal sense of time grows faster than time itself.


Our memory also plays a crucial role in the sense of time. When we have a good time, our brain does not usually store detailed memories, so it seems that time passed quickly when we remember it later. Conversely, during periods of boredom, our brain tends to store more information, creating the impression that the period lasted longer when we remember it later.

Getting older

Time also seems to speed up as you get older. When you are a child, everything is new, and therefore your brain lays down dense networks to remember those events and experiences, which makes time seem to slow down. As you become an adult, your experiences become repetitive and do not stimulate or form new memories, making time seem to speed up. So many lament the time of youth and wonder where it went.

Time can be distorted due to the effects of velocity and gravity, making time literally elastic in the physical universe

The role of attention

One of the main factors in our perception of time is our level of attention. When we are engaged in a task and enjoy it, we pay less attention to the passage of time, which makes time pass faster. When we are bored or waiting, we become acutely aware of every second, which makes time seem very slow.

Animal experience of time

The experience of time flexibility is not limited to humans, as research shows that animals also have flexible time perception. In the animal kingdom, you know small animals with faster metabolic rates, such as flies or birds; That time passes more slowly than it does in reality, allowing them to react to environmental stimuli more quickly.

Time dilation in the universe

The principle of time dilation in Albert Einstein's theory of relativity provides deep scientific insight into the elasticity of time. Time dilation refers to the idea that time passes at different rates for objects that move relative to each other or are in different gravitational fields. This means that time can be distorted due to the effects of speed and gravity. , making time literally elastic in the physical universe.

So, next time you're having fun and feel like time is flying by, know that it's only happening in your head, because time perception is a complex interaction between our attention, our memory, our emotions, our neurotransmitters, our internal states, and how our brain processes information.

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Be happy and grateful for everything you have in your life

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Comments (2)

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  • Mark Graham2 months ago

    This would make a great lecture for a Biological Psychology class. Great lecture.

  • Andrea Corwin 2 months ago

    Nice! Summers when young were sooooooo long.

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